Viacom/CBS Chairman Sumner Redstone's alleged dalliances with younger women and the largess he bestowed on them have jumped from the gossip columns to the financial pages as questions arise over whether his activities represent a misuse of corporate funds. While it appears that in at least two cases Redstone gave the women more than $100,000 in stock and attempted to use his clout to get them hired at Viacom companies, attorneys told reporters that such actions are commonplace in the business world. In an interview with Reuters, John Coffee, a securities law expert at Columbia Law School, said it was unlikely that shareholders would sue. "Unless you get to $10 million or $20 million, it's not of interest to any plaintiffs' attorney," he said. Meanwhile, National Amusements, the Redstone company that acts as the holding company for CBS and Viacom, issued a statement on Wednesday maintaining that the gifts to the women came from Redstone's personal holdings -- and besides, it noted, he gave far more to charity. In its words, "Sumner Redstone has given personal gifts of stock to friends and family members, as well as major charitable gifts totaling over $100 million to health and educational institutions." In a related matter, today's (Thursday) New York Post reported that Redstone is facing the likelihood of a sexual harassment lawsuit by a former Viacom senior executive.

29/07/2010