CBS Corp. and Viacom Inc. are one step closer to merging after agreeing on the structure of the combined company’s board, according to people familiar with the matter.
That paves the way for the long-awaited transaction to be announced as soon as next week, said the people, who asked to not be identified because the matter isn’t public. They are still negotiating the exchange ratio of the potential all-stock merger, which could delay an announcement, they said.
Shari Redstone, whose family investment vehicle National Amusements Inc. controls both companies, could become chairman of the combined entity, the people said, adding that no final decision has been made. If she does, she would join an exclusive club. Only 18 companies on the S&P 500 Index have a female chairman, according to the most recent data compiled by Bloomberg. That works out to less than 4 percent.
Representatives for CBS, Viacom, and NAI declined to comment.
The deal would unite the most-watched US broadcast network with the owner of the Paramount movie studio and cable channels including MTV and Nickelodeon. It would also cap years of failed merger attempts and board infighting at both companies.
CBS would receive six seats on the 13-member board, while Viacom would get four, the people said. Another two would be designated to NAI, they said, with Redstone and family attorney Robert Klieger slated for those roles. Viacom Chief Executive Officer Bob Bakish, set to lead the combined company as CEO, would also get a seat on the board, the people said.
Strauss Zelnick, the video game executive who is the interim CBS chairman, has stated that he’s not interested in an ongoing executive role. The Information reported on the likely board composition earlier this week.
The last time the companies were in merger discussions, more than a year ago, Viacom directors had agreed to take 0.6135 CBS share for every nonvoting share of their company, people with knowledge said at the time. The companies had also expected to save at least $1 billion by combining. The price is likely to be similar this time, people said this week. The current trading ratio between the two companies is 0.6137 based on their stock prices on Friday afternoon in New York.