The much-discussed feud between Viacom Inc. chairman Sumner Redstone and
president and chief operating officer Mel Karmazin came to a head this past
week, with Redstone reportedly telling company directors he would not renew
Karmazin's contract when it expires at the end of 2003.
In a prepared statement Friday, Viacom denied any friction between the two
executives, adding that the men have 'successfully and productively worked
together for more than two years since the announcement of the CBS merger.'
Reports of a rift between Redstone and Karmazin have been rampant since
almost immediately after Viacom completed its $37.3 billion merger with CBS
Corp. in 2000. Karmazin had been the CBS chief.
'Neither Mr. Redstone nor Mr. Karmazin have stated their intentions beyond
the end' of Karmazin's contract, Viacom said.
Karmazin and Redstone jointly said in the statement: 'We are committed to
Viacom and its shareholders, we each have a significant stake in the success and
growth of the company and we are looking forward to working together
productively in the ensuring years.'
Redstone and Karmazin attended a dinner for investors hosted by Bear Stearns
& Co. Thursday night, possibly as a show of unity.
Redstone is 78 years old and Karmazin is 58.
Late this past week, Viacom's board, at a regularly scheduled meeting,
ordered the two headstrong executives to work out their differences, according
to published reports.
A report in Friday's edition of TheNew York Times said
Redstone informed the board he would not renew Karmazin's contract, which ends
To fire Karmazin before then, Redstone would need to convince 14 of the
board's 18 members to agree -- an unlikely scenario, since eight directors have
ties to Karmazin and CBS.