The board of Viacom Inc., the U.S.’s third largest media conglomerate, has approved a plan to split into two publicly traded companies, one focused on cable programming and the other on the already mature broadcasting business. Chief Executive Sumner Redstone will be chairman and controlling shareholder of both companies after the division occurs in the first quarter of 2006.
Speaking to The Los Angeles Times, Redstone admitted that splitting up Viacom would give MTV Networks its own stock to use for acquisitions, and that one of the most interesting possibilities amongst these was video game related companies.
"Cable programming assets are at the top of the list, closely followed by Internet acquisitions and gaming, which is the fastest-growing part of the entertainment industry," said Redstone.
Redstone is already the majority shareholder at game publisher Midway as a private individual, having increased his stake to 80.9 percent
last July after installing his daughter Shari as vice chairman. Rumors that he would take the company private and then sell it to Viacom have never come to fruition, although that may change following the new Viacom split-up.
Alternately, Redstone could be considering completely different acquisitions for the company he heads. Viacom itself has been linked to several possible buyouts
in recent years, most notably Electronic Arts, but also Atari and THQ. However, none of these possibilities have yet solidified.