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Power Sheet – June 17, 2016

The Sumner Redstone saga is heating up, but in a larger sense it’s only getting dreary and sad. Yesterday he took the first step toward firing five directors of Viacom and replacing them with directors of his choosing, creating a new board that would presumably fire CEO Philippe Dauman in short order. While dramatic, none of this is surprising after weeks of conflict between Redstone and the board, and a letter he sent yesterday to lead independent director Frederic Salerno stating bluntly, “I am determined to act in the best interests of the company and all of its shareholders. I do not trust you or the current board to do the same.”

Redstone can do all this because he controls 80% of Viacom’s shares, though Salerno sued yesterday to block the changes, which he says are actually the work of Shari Redstone through her manipulation of her 93-year-old father. It’s an old story, and shareholders pay the price; Viacom stock is down 44% from it’s high a couple of year ago. While most analysts blame Dauman, Viacom’s decline is Redstone’s fault. As Yale leadership expert Jeffrey Sonnenfeld explains, leaders who can’t bear to let go have plagued organizations for millennia. They “become blinded by their visions and do not often leave office gracefully.” Viacom stock jumped on yesterday’s news, presumably because investors are happy to see Dauman go. But what CEO worth his or her salt would take the job now?

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News events have diverted attention from the issue of Donald Trump’s tax returns for several weeks, but it’s an important issue that will come back, which is why you should read this article now. Reporter and tax expert David Cay Johnston uncovered two tax cases from the 1990s in which Trump filed appeals and lost. The cases show that at least in 1984, he paid no income tax at all, and one of the cases suggests some decidedly odd behavior.

A tax lawyer and accountant who prepared Trump’s tax returns for over 20 years testified, when shown Trump’s 1984 return, that he and his firm did not prepare it. Yet he acknowledged that the signature on the photocopy was his. How might that have happened? The judge stated that the original return was never found.

The bigger issue is that Trump has promised to release his tax returns but hasn’t done so, and it isn’t clear why not. He has said he wants to wait until audits are resolved, but why? Johnston observes that “a tax return is filed under penalty of perjury and releasing a return has no effect on an audit, as many tax authorities (including a former IRS commissioner) have noted.”

Until he releases his returns or offers a plausible reason not to, voters must speculate on why he’s withholding them. None of the potential reasons will be good. Hillary Clinton is in a strong position to pound him on the issue, since she and her husband have routinely released their returns for years (though she may not want to remind voters of her speaking fees from Goldman Sachs). The media will keep digging. Trump has eluded the issue so far, but it will come back to bite him.

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What We’re Reading Today

Redstone moves to oust Viacom’s board

Sumner Redstone, Viacom’s controlling shareholder, announced that he’s replacing five directors, including Chairman and CEO Philippe Dauman; the current board remains in place while Redstone asks a judge to confirm the decision. Lead independent director Frederic Salerno has filed suit to block the move, saying it reflects the wishes of Redstone’s daughter Shari and contradicts Redstone’s stated wishes. Replacement directors include Buzzfeed Chairman Kenneth Lerer and former Sony Entertainment President Nicole Seligman Los Angeles Times

Chinese regulator rules Apple iPhone 6 violates Chinese patents
The Beijing Intellectual Property Office says Tim Cook‘s company infringed on Shenzhen Baili’s 100C phone. Apple can continue selling phones in Beijing while it appeals the decision. It’s another sign of apparent hostility from China, which shut down Apple’s book and movie offerings in April.  Bloomberg

Microsoft enters the weed business…

… becoming one of the first major companies to associate with the marijuana industry.  Satya Nadella‘s company will provide cloud services to Kind Financial, which offers government compliance software to the industry. Since marijuana remains illegal under federal law, most large firms avoid it. But Microsoft says it sees big potential.  Fortune

Russia banned from the Olympics

The International Association of Athletics Federations has decided to uphold a suspension of Russian’s track and field team through the Rio Olympics, following a report of a state-run doping program. The report found that a Russian lab took extreme measures to cover up doped samples and forced clean athletes to participate in the program. Sports are so important to Vladimir Putin that the ban could lead to official retaliation against Western countries.  NYT

Building a Better Leader

Talking office politics with a new colleague
Make sure their motive isn’t to recruit you to their camp, and respect boundaries. Anything you say could be used against you. Harvard Business Review

Starbucks and Microsoft team up for your daily meeting
In the Outlook app’s meeting request, you can now click a “Meet at Starbucks” command. Fortune

Experience isn’t everything
A president’s record is nearly useless in forecasting performance. FiveThirtyEight

Global Fights

Britain looks for motive behind lawmaker’s murder

British MP Jo Cox was killed in broad daylight on Thursday, and officials are asking why. The accused assailant is reportedly Thomas Mair, who may have ties to neo-Nazi groups; Cox favored Britain’s staying in the European Union, which may have been a factor. Brexit campaigning has been suspended following her death. WSJ

U.S. diplomats urge Obama to strike in Syria

Over 50 State Department officers have signed a letter to the president criticizing his policy of not attacking Syrian government forces and not trying to replace  President Bashar al-Assad. The diplomats say al-Assad has repeatedly violated a cease-fire in the civil war. Secretary of State John Kerry‘s diplomatic efforts to end the fighting have failed. NYT

John McCain blames Obama for Orlando shooting…
…but then walks it back. McCain said President Obama was “directly responsible” because he has failed to stop the rise of Islamic State. But 90 minutes later McCain said he was referring to Obama’s national security decisions. Fortune

Up or Out

Abercrombie & Fitch has named CFO Joanne Crevoiserat  “interim principal executive.” The company has been without a CEO for almost 18 months Columbus Dispatch

Fortune Reads and Videos

LinkedIn had another potential suitor
Marc Benioff‘s Salesforce gave LinkedIn a close look just before Microsoft bought it. Fortune

Revlon rescues Elizabeth Arden
Arden sells for $870 million after a failed attempt to turn itself around using celebrities. Fortune

Finding Dory could be Pixar’s biggest hit ever
Analysts expect U.S. opening weekend box office of $120 million.  Fortune

Philadelphia imposes a soda tax
It’s the first major city to do so; the money will go toward funding schools. Fortune

Happy Birthday

Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne turns 64 today.  Encyclopedia Britannica

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich turns 73 today.  Biography

Myanmar activist Aung San Suu Kyi turns 71 on Sunday.  Biography

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@ryanderous
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