Media heiress Shari Redstone may force a merger of CBS and Viacom even if CBS boss Les Moonves refuses to run the merged company — and is likely to replace him if a deal isn’t reached, according to reports.
Moonves is chafing at Redstone’s insistence on installing Viacom’s CEO Bob Bakish as his second-in-command and likely successor of a merged company, according to sources. Moonves reportedly wants his long-time lieutenant, CBS chief operating officer Joseph Ianniello, to take the No. 2 spot.
While Redstone wants Moonves to run the combined company, she is contemplating moving forward without him at the helm if no agreement can be reached to keep him aboard, Reuters reported on Wednesday.
CNBC went a step further on Wednesday, reporting that Moonves will likely be replaced if a merger doesn’t happen.
“Shari values Les, but we are now in a world of: ‘what happens after Les?’” a source told Reuters.
CBS and Viacom announced in February that they were exploring a potential deal and in recent weeks have begun negotiations.
“Les is saying ‘I want to make this successful … but let me have my team,’” a source said.
Earlier this week, The Post reported that insiders expect a deal will get done despite the disagreement between Moonves and Redstone over the No. 2 exec, as well as the price of the deal. Viacom last week demanded $14.7 billion, rejecting an offer from CBS of $11.9 billion.
At stake is the future of Redstone’s media empire, which is facing pressure to scale up at a time when competitors are gobbling rivals to stay relevant. Her family’s company, National Amusements, controls both CBS and Viacom. Redstone favors merging the two to gain size and leverage in negotiating better programming prices from traditional cable and satellite customers, and to better compete with emerging players such as Netflix, sources said.
Redstone, Moonves and Bakish declined to comment through spokespeople. Viacom and CBS declined to comment.