CBS Chief, 92, Quits Amid 'Living Ghost' Lawsuit

Battle for future of CBS, Viacom lies ahead
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 4, 2016 4:52 AM CST
CBS Chief, 92, Quits Amid 'Living Ghost' Lawsuit
Sumner Redstone arrives at the 2011 premiere of "Footloose" in Los Angeles.   (AP Photo/Matt Sayles, File)

Big changes lie ahead at CBS and Viacom, where 92-year-old chairman Sumner Redstone is stepping down amid lawsuits and power struggles. CBS announced on Wednesday that Redstone has resigned to become "chairman emeritus" and that CBS CEO Leslie Moonves will take his place, the New York Times reports. A source tells the Wall Street Journal that Redstone, who controls around 80% of voting stock in CBS and Viacom, will also step down from the latter company, though the decision will not be finalized until a board meeting on Thursday. Redstone, who built a $39 billion media colossus out of the theater chain his father founded in 1936, had long insisted that he would step down—and never die—but recent years have seen what the Times calls "Shakespearean twists and turns" over the future of his empire.

In a lawsuit brought by ex-girlfriend Manuela Herzer last year after she was removed from authority over Redstone's health decisions, she describes him as a "living ghost" with diminished mental capacity. Redstone's lawyers have labeled the ongoing lawsuit a meritless, "despicable invasion of his privacy." The Times notes that it has already brought up "embarrassing" information about the media mogul's physical deterioration, sexual appetite, and "obsession with eating steak." In another twist, Redstone's daughter Shari issued a statement Wednesday saying that her father wanted her to succeed him but she nominated Moonves instead to be a "leader with an independent voice," the AP reports. (Fellow aging media mogul Rupert Murdoch is engaged to Jerry Hall.)

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