The corporate fight between CBS and Shari Redstone’s National Amusements (NAI), which owns controlling shares in both CBS and Viacom, has escalated today with NAI countersuing CBS. Earlier this month, CBS sued NAI in an effort to block Redstone’s effort to merge CBS and Viacom, which would have reunited CBS, who owns the Star Trek brand and Trek on television, with Paramount Pictures, who owns and controls Star Trek feature films.
Also earlier this month, CBS voted to dilute Redstone’s shares to prevent her from replacing CBS board members and force a deal. According to multiple reports today, NAI’s countersuit calls these attempts by CBS “extraordinary, unjustified and unlawful actions.” The NAI suit also states that Redstone, who is vice chairman of both CBS and Viacom, decided to back off her push to merge the companies even before CBS filed suit on May 14th, noting NAI did not “intend to force a CBS/Viacom merger, whether by removing and replacing CBS directors or otherwise.”
Recode highlights one part of the complaint filed today as an indicator of Redstone’s end game: “Ms. Redstone discussed NAI’s long-term plans for CBS, focusing on a two-step process starting with a merger with Viacom that would strengthen both entities, and continuing thereafter with a sale or merger of the stronger combined entity, with NAI open to the possibility of relinquishing its voting control as part of that second transaction.”
According to Variety, NAI also claims that CEO and Chairman Leslie Moonves “expressed his support for a merger with Viacom that would pave the way for a possible larger transaction involving the combined companies.” However, and perhaps more ominously for Moonves, today’s suit also “challenges the legality of Moonves’ severance package.”
Hopes for Star Trek unity on hold
Earlier this year things looked hopeful that after over a decade, the Star Trek brand could again be united under one corporate umbrella, as it was before CBS and Viacom split up in 2006. A re-merger could have opened up many possibilities for future synergies for the brand. While Star Trek may not be one of the driving forces of the on again and off again re-merger talks, the franchise is still impacted. For example, Star Trek II writer/director Nicholas Meyer has recently stated, a three-part Star Trek mini-series he has written for CBS has been put on hold, pending an outcome of the merger.
While a future deal between CBS and Viacom, or possibly CBS, Viacom and one or more other parties, is still possible, nothing will happen until this boardroom power struggle is settled. And for now, that fight has moved to battling litigation in the Delaware courts.
TrekMovie will continue to keep track of this story and will provide updates when available.