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What Warren Sees in Shari

Paramount Global chairperson Shari Redstone can pretty much do whatever she wants at the now-combined entity, including replacing its C.E.O., its board and single-handedly deciding whether the company should be sold.
Paramount Global chairperson Shari Redstone can pretty much do whatever she wants at the now-combined entity, including replacing its C.E.O., its board and single-handedly deciding whether the company should be sold. Photo: Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan, Getty Images
William D. Cohan
May 22, 2022

My former M&A banker instincts were triggered this week after Warren Buffett, the most gifted investor of our lifetime, disclosed a $2.6 billion stake in Paramount Global, formerly ViacomCBS, a company whose leadership I have occasionally criticized. Paramount, after all, holds an awkward position on the streaming leaderboard, not only too small to compete with the likes of Netflix and Disney but also too bulky—following Shari Redstone’s recombination of the Viacom and CBS assets—to be easily acquirable by a rival, especially as long as the once-beloved CBS linear television network remains in the picture. 

If there is one thing I know about Buffett, it is that he tries pretty damn hard not to overpay for companies. So let’s stipulate that he thinks Paramount Global is undervalued. Since Warren revealed Berkshire Hathaway’s stake on Monday, in a S.E.C. filing, the Paramount Global stock is up around 16.5 percent in a very rocky market. That doesn’t yet prove Warren is right that the company is undervalued, but it does prove that the Buffett halo is still for real. It’ll take longer to prove whether C.E.O. Bob Bakish and his team at Paramount Global can live up to whatever Buffett is expecting from it. (Buffett did not respond to my request for comment.)