Redstone: NARI Deal "Within Reach"


Viacom and CBS chairman Sumner Redstone told analysts Thursday that an agreement between lenders and his National Amusements Inc. -- which holds the bulk of his stock in both companies -- is "within reach."
Redstone came under fire in October after he was forced to sell about $233 million worth of his Viacom and CBS shares to cover debt obligations for National Amusements. The sell-off spooked investors who feared that the chairman would have to sell more stock.
On a conference call with analysts to discuss Viacom's fourth-quarter results, Redstone said negotiations between National Amusement and its lenders have been constructive and that NARI has not sold any Viacom or CBS stock since October. He added that the company has no intention of selling additional stock in the future. And it may not have to.
"I have been advised that an agreement acceptable to all parties is now within reach," Redstone said.
Redstone declined to give any further details. But he reiterated that National Amusements has "valuable real estate assets." In the past it has been speculated that National Amusements could sell its vast real estate holdings - it owns most of the land under its movie theaters -to pay off some of the debt. In December, Redstone was forced to sell 80.3 million shares of video game maker Midway Games for about $100,000. It had been estimated that Redstone spent about $800 million accumulating those shares over the past several years. It had been speculated that the losses associated with that sale could be used as leverage in negotiations with lenders.