Viacom Speeds Up Split

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Viacom Inc. said Tuesday that it is accelerating the timeline for its planned split into two separate companies to the end of this year instead of the first quarter of 2006.

Viacom announced in March its plan to cleave into two separate units -- Viacom, headed by current co-chief operating officer Tom Freston, and CBS Corp., headed by co-COO Les Moonves.

The new Viacom would include its cable assets (MTV Networks and Black Entertainment Television), Paramount Pictures, Paramount Home Entertainment and Famous Music.

CBS would include its CBS broadcast network, the UPN broadcast network, Infinity Broadcasting Corp., Viacom Outdoor, Viacom Television Stations Group, Paramount Television, King World Productions, Simon & Schuster Inc., Showtime Networks Inc. and ParamountParks.

Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone would hold that position at both companies after the split.

The split is widely considered to be a move to boost Viacom’s sagging stock price -- shares are down 16.4% ($6.11) since the beginning of the year -- by giving investors a choice of putting their money into growth assets (new Viacom) or more stable properties (CBS). Viacom shares were down 12 cents each to $31.04 per share in 4 p.m. trading Tuesday.

Viacom spokesman Carl Folta did not return a call for comment.

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