At the beginning of 2018, it looked like CBS and Viacom were headed for a re-merger, which would bring all of Star Trek back under one corporate umbrella again. However, by March talks had broken down and the whole thing moved to the courts with a lawsuit filed by the CBS board, led by chairman and CEO Les Moonves, to take power away from controlling shareholder Shari Redstone, who had been pushing for the deal.
Settlement would delay talks of Viacom/CBS remerger
With a hearing for the suit between CBS and Shari Redstone’s National Amusements looming in early October, it appears the parties are looking to settle things out of court. The business press and trades are now all reporting that negotiations are underway. The Wall Street Journal reports, “A framework for the settlement would include CBS dropping its attempt to strip National Amusements of its voting control of the company by issuing shares as a dividend. In return, National Amusements would refrain from pushing for a merger of CBS and Viacom Inc. for an undisclosed period.”
Reuters sources get more specific, saying there would be “a two-year standstill” for any discussions of a merger. Viacom spun off CBS back in 2006 with the Redstone family maintaining controlling shares in both corporations. In recent years Shari Redstone has been pushing to bring the corporations back together with the 2018 talks being the second set of formal negotiations that have broken down.
Moonves negotiating exit
A major opponent to the CBS/Viacom re-merger has been CBS CEO and chairman Les Moonves, however, it also appears his days leading CBS are coming to an end. Again, multiple major outlets are reporting that Moonves is currently negotiating his departure from CBS, which he has run for two decades. Reports agree that discussions are to the point of negotiating Moonves’ payout, which according to the New York Times will “be far less than $180 million, the amount specified in his employment agreement should he leave the CBS Corporation.”
Deadline is reporting that the “post-Les Moonves CBS” has started to “take shape as exit talks advance.” All the reporting agrees that the deal being struck has current CBS COO Joseph Ianniello stepping in as interim CEO with Deadline reporting that an outside search for a permanent replacement for Moonves would commence.
Star Trek impacted by these corporate moves
Any new CEO for CBS could result in new strategies, possibly including areas that could impact Star Trek. The decision for CBS to not participate with Hulu and to launch their own streaming service was made by Moonves. Moonves was also involved in decisions related to using Star Trek to spearhead CBS All Access, including bringing on Alex Kurtzman and Bryan Fuller to develop Star Trek: Discovery. Kurtzman is now in charge of expanding the Star Trek universe on TV for CBS, with All Access planning to go all in on Trek with multiple Trek shows set to launch on the service.
The hold on the merger talks between Viacom and CBS also put hopes of bringing Trek back under one roof on hold as well. One of the side effects of the 2006 corporate split was the division of Star Trek, with CBS retaining ownership of the brand and television franchise and Viacom’s Paramount Pictures owning the film library, and rights to make more feature films.
A re-merger would bring that all back together which at a bare minimum could create possible synergies. And with CBS’ expanded plans for the franchise on TV and Paramount planning multiple Star Trek films, there is potential for even more synchronicity, including the possibility of a single “Star Trek Cinematic Universe,” like the Marvel films and TV shows. If merger talks resume in 2020 this reunification of Star Trek may still take place, but it will be too late for much of what is currently being mapped out by CBS and Paramount for the future of the franchise.
This is a developing story with some reports saying a deal could be announced as soon as Friday. We will be providing updates as it becomes available.