Shari Redstone
So far, no one seems to know why Shari made this decision, and she hasn’t explained herself. Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg/Getty Images
William D. Cohan
June 12, 2024

In the hours before the stunning news came that Shari Redstone had ended negotiations to sell her family’s entertainment empire to Skydance Media’s David Ellison and RedBird Capital’s Gerry Cardinale, there were signs that the deal was sputtering. Redstone, of course, had been bargaining with Ellison and Cardinale for more than half a year over their offer for National Amusements Inc., the holding company through which she controls Paramount Global, the Hollywood heirloom she inherited from her father. But in recent weeks, the foot-dragging on the complex deal had become parodic—special committees, potential Revlon duties, media leaks, stalking horses, etcetera. Then, on Tuesday morning, just as Paramount’s special committee was set to vote on the combination, word emerged that Shari had killed the deal.

A day earlier, I had begun to receive a barrage of incoming texts and emails from Paramount insiders expressing genuine concern that Charles Phillips, the 65-year-old former Morgan Stanley banker and Paramount board member who sits on the board’s special committee, had been trying to thwart the Ellison/RedBird deal. According to these people, Phillips had been against the sale pretty much from the beginning and had been whispering in Shari’s ear that she could do better—perhaps even with Phillips himself leading a new management team. “It’s a disgrace,” someone involved in the M&A process told me yesterday. (Rich Greenfield, at LightShed Partners, wrote in a note on Wednesday that it was “likely” that Shari would appoint Phillips to replace the three men now acting as the company’s co-C.E.O.s, who are known on Wall Street as the Pep Boys.)