Shari’s Double-Trigger Deal Cooler

Shari Redstone, president of National Amusements, walks to a morning session at the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference on July 12, 2023 in Sun Valley, Idaho.
If Shari could somehow interest Apple, or Amazon, or Microsoft, or Google, or Walmart (or Larry) in buying NAI, I would definitely agree with Shari that the chances of a credit downgrade would become more remote. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images
William D. Cohan
December 20, 2023

There is obvious deal logic and virtue in David Ellison and Gerry Cardinale’s attempt to acquire National Amusements Inc., the parent company of Paramount Global, from Shari Redstone. After all, Shari controls nearly 80 percent of the voting rights of Paramount Global, along with some 10 percent of the economic value of the company. Those voting rights allow Shari to appoint Paramount’s board of directors and its executive leadership, through which she can do pretty much anything she wants at the company. She can unilaterally decide whether to sell an asset—say, Simon & Schuster—or to not sell an asset, say BET (or to revive the sale of it). She can also change the company’s charter or bylaws. And she hasn’t been the least bit shy in these regards, either. She hand-picked Bob Bakish as C.E.O., and she has pretty much hand-picked the Paramount Global board of directors. 

Unfortunately for Shari, given all the power she has over the company’s fortunes, she also has to take the blame for its troubles. Since her father’s death, in August 2020, when there was no longer any question that Shari was running things at the company, the stock is down 41 percent. (She was probably running things long before his death, but we’ll give her the benefit of the doubt on this one.) Meanwhile, over the same time span, the S&P 500 is up 45 percent. Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery are down too, of course, but when it comes to long-term value destruction, Paramount is truly in a league of its own.