CBS Is Reportedly Preparing an Offer to Re-Merge With Viacom

Could the third time be the charm?

Viacom CEO Bob Bakish is seen as the favorite to run the combined company, while acting CBS CEO Joseph Ianniello's future is unclear.
Getty Images, CBS

Could the third time be the charm for CBS and Viacom?

The media companies, who split 13 years ago, are once again talking about merging, with CBS planning to make an offer for Viacom in the coming weeks, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Both CBS and Viacom declined to comment to Adweek about the report.

The Journal said that several stumbling blocks remain in a potential deal, including settling on the price for a stock transaction and selecting a leadership team, with Viacom CEO Bob Bakish—who recently appeared on Adweek’s cover—seen as the most likely choice to lead the combined company. CBS has been led by acting CEO Joseph Ianniello since Les Moonves exited the company last September following more than a dozen accusations of sexual harassment and intimidation.

This is the third time that the companies have explored a merger in the past three years.

They initially split 13 years ago, but merger talks ignited in 2016 when chairman Sumner Redstone prevailed over former Viacom president and CEO Philippe Dauman after months of fighting over the future of Viacom.

The merger of CBS and Viacom, which seemed like a foregone conclusion for much of 2016, was put on hold in December of that year by National Amusements, which owns 80% of the voting shares of both Viacom and CBS.

The companies again agreed to explore a merger in February 2018, but those talks derailed and resulted in CBS suing majority owners Sumner and Shari Redstone that May. Last September, just before their Oct. 3 court date, the companies reached a settlement on the same day as Moonves’ exit.

As part of that settlement, National Amusements agreed to not pursue a merger between CBS and Viacom for two years, but the CBS board, not National Amusements, initiated these most recent talks.

A CBS-Viacom merger, which has been rumored ever since last year’s settlement, would give both companies scale at a time when most of their rivals have completed big mergers, including Disney-Fox, Discovery-Scripps and AT&T-TimeWarner (now WarnerMedia).

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