Viacom, CBS Merge After Years of On-and-Off Talks

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Years of on-again, off-again negotiations came to a successful end today with the announcement of a deal that will merge CBS Corp. and Viacom into a $28 billion entertainment giant.

``Today marks an important day for CBS and Viacom, as we unite our complementary assets and capabilities and become one of only a few companies with the breadth and depth of content and reach to shape the future of our industry,'' said Viacom President/CEO Bob Bakish, who assume the same post at the new firm, dubbed ViacomCBS Inc.

``Our unique ability to produce premium and popular content for global audiences at scale -- for our own platforms and for our partners around the world -- will enable us to maximize our business for today, while positioning us to lead for years to come,'' he said. ``As we look to the future, I couldn't be more excited about the opportunities ahead for the combined company and all of our stakeholders -- including consumers, the creative community, commercial partners, employees and, of course, our shareholders.''

CBS and Viacom -- which owns Paramount Pictures, MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central, among other networks -- were both controlled by the powerful Redstone family in an empire built by patriarch Sumner Redstone. Once operating together, Redstone split the firms more than a decade ago.

With the 96-year-old Redstone in failing health, his daughter, Shari, has been pushing for years to reunite the firms, but a deal never materialized. But she proclaimed victory on Tuesday.

``My father once said, `Content is king,' and never has that been more true than today,'' she said in a statement. ``Through CBS and Viacom's shared passion for premium content and innovation, we will establish a world- class, multiplatform media organization that is well-positioned for growth in a rapidly transforming industry.''

Joe Ianniello, president and acting CEO at CBS will become CBS chairman/CEO under the new organization. Christina Spade will serve as executive vice president and chief financial officer, while Christa D'Alimonte will be executive vice president, general counsel and secretary.

Shari Redstone will chair the 13-member board of directors.

Photo:Getty Images

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