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CBS’ Moonves gets Upfronts ovation as legal battle heats up

CBS chief Leslie Moonves received a standing ovation from buyers at its Upfronts presentation last night, as the company faces a crunch after launching a lawsuit against its controlling shareholders, the Redstone family, on Monday

Les Moonves

In an atypical Upfront presentation, Moonves walked out to a standing ovation from a sizeable portion of the crowd who were cheering and whistling for the exec, as the company announced new series such as The NeighbourhoodHappy Together and God Friended Me.

The reception was especially poignant as the future of CBS remains uncertain after it made moves to block Shari Redstone’s efforts to forcibly merge the US broadcaster with former partner company Viacom.

In a lawsuit filed on Monday in the Delaware Court of Chancery, CBS said it was seeking to prevent National Amusements, its controlling shareholder and investment firm of the Redstone family, from interfering with a special meeting of its board of directors who are voting on diluting the family’s voting rights.

The Redstone family controls 80 per cent of the votes at CBS and Viacom, despite owning just about 10 per cent of the shares, which the company says may not lead to its best interests. 

Hours prior to the CBS Upfronts presentation, Redstone made moves to block the media company’s efforts by dictating changes to the rules of how CBS’s board operates. A Delaware Chancery Court judge put a brief pause on the legal battle on the same day, however.

The pause will be upheld until CBS board members make the vote today, a move that may predict big changes in CBS’s future.

News of a CBS/Viacom merger proposal broke in February, with CBS then making a below-market valuation of Viacom in April.

The move is thought to be a push from Sumner Redstone, majority owner of National Amusements and father of Shari Redstone. The Redstone family is looking to reunite the two companies after their split in 2006.