Viacom stays in-house for new top executive

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New York (AFP)

Viacom on Monday named longtime company executive Robert Bakish as its interim top executive, filling a void at the media-entertainment group roiled by internal feuding.

Bakish, who has led Viacom's international television business over the past 10 years, will be acting president and chief executive starting November 15, taking over from Tom Dooley, who announced he was stepping down last month.

The move comes after the ouster of CEO Philippe Dauman, who clashed over control of the company with 93-year-old founder and controlling shareholder Sumner Redstone and his family.

Dauman had filed legal actions claiming the aging Redstone was unable to manage his affairs and had been manipulated by his daughter Shari.

Dauman eventually dropped his lawsuit as part of an agreement to leave the company, which controls Paramount studios in Hollywood and a global television empire that includes MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon and other properties, with operations in 180 countries.

The appointment comes with the Redstone family seeking to re-merge Viacom with broadcast group CBS more than a decade after splitting the two firms, aiming to reposition for a changing media landscape.

"Bob's record of innovation and achievement at Viacom, combined with his strategic vision and leadership ability, make him highly qualified for this position," said Tom May, non-executive chairman of the board.

"We are determined to move forward aggressively to strengthen Viacom for the future, whether as a standalone company or in a potential combination with CBS. There is a great deal of opportunity ahead and Bob is a superb leader to drive this effort, fully empowered to take the actions necessary to position Viacom for success."

Under Bakish, the company has expanded its global footprint to more than 200 TV channels reaching a cumulative 3.9 billion subscribers, with international revenue doubling during his tenure, according to a company statement.

Shari Redstone, who is vice chair of the board, called Bakish "an exemplary forward thinker" who "embraces disruption and brings teams along with him."

Sumner Redstone, believed to be in failing health, remains chief executive of the holding company National Amusements, the controlling shareholder of the two firms. Shari Redstone is president of the group.