Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Sumner Redstone: I’m Done Selling CBS, Viacom Shares. I Mean It.

CBS chairman Sumner Redstone’s message to investors: Don’t worry, I’m done selling shares in my beaten-down media properties.

Redstone altered the standard introduction he makes at the beginning of each quarterly earnings call to address his recent sale of $233 million worth of shares in CBS (CBS) and Viacom (VIA). Those sales, made to appease lenders to Redstone’s National Amusements Inc. holding company, were a one-time event, he insisted: “This was not something NAI wanted to do, nor is it something that NAI intends to do again … NAI has no intention of selling a single share of Viacom or CBS.”

National Amusements, which is both a movie theater operator and Redstone’s personal holding company, is  trying to renegotiate some $1.6 billion in loans. A debt covenant triggered the share sales earlier this month, and investors have been wondering whether Redstone will have to unload even more shares.

CBS shares are down more 50 percent over the last year, and Viacom’s price has dropped nearly 70 percent.

Note that Redstone couldn’t definitively promise that he wouldn’t sell another share in his companies. And CBS officials wouldn’t let analysts ask him about his debt issues during the conference call.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik