Should Shari Redstone Flip CBS News?

Shari Redstone
Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty
William D. Cohan
March 16, 2022

Around Wall Street these days, there is consensus that Shari Redstone has been keen to sell or to merge what she is now calling Paramount Global, and what many think of as the ill-fated re-combination of CBS and Viacom. As many of my most loyal readers know, I’ve been predicting this for years. Frankly, it always seemed to me that Redstone’s logic for recombining these companies was that a single entity—one company, one board, one shareholder base, etc.—would eventually make it easier for her to flip and, presumably, be easier for her family from a tax perspective. 

Now, the rapidly transforming streaming entertainment sector is putting some time pressure on the putative plan. Paramount Global, after all, is a minnow among sharks. With a market value of around $23 billion, it is the smallest of the group of companies that aspire to Hollywood hegemony. Netflix, even after its recent plunge, still has a market value of about $157 billion. Comcast is valued at around $206 billion. Disney has a market value of more than $250 billion. Amazon and Apple, the newest players in the content game, are worth trillions.

The stock market, too, seems to be gearing up for a Paramount Global sale. While the market as a whole has had a rough start in 2022—the S&P 500 is down 10 percent and the Nasdaq is down more than 16 percent, while Netflix is down 41 percent and Disney is down 12 percent—Paramount Global is up nearly 12 percent. There’s no special news out of Paramount Global to justify the stock’s increase this year, other than the ongoing deal speculation among investors. Meanwhile, it seems Paramount Global is busy settling outstanding litigation: CBS is finally resolving a shareholder lawsuit over its former C.E.O., Les Moonves, as my partner Eriq Gardner wrote yesterday. I am also hearing that Paramount Global is getting ready to settle two other legal scuffles: a 2020 shareholder lawsuit brought against ViacomCBS by the Bucks County Employees Retirement Fund and the International Union of Operating Engineers of Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware, and another shareholder lawsuit, Samit v. CBS Corporation, filed in 2018. (It’s always an interesting signal in the deal-world when outstanding lawsuits start getting settled.)