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Viacom hires Morgan Stanley, LionTree for capital review: Source

Viacom has hired Morgan Stanley and LionTree to review its capital structure, a source familiar with the situation said on Wednesday, as the media company seeks ways to shore up its finances in the face of falling advertising sales.

The review is a short-term assignment, said the source, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter and requested anonymity.

Viacom had hired Morgan Stanley and LionTree ahead of an all-day strategic review by the media company's board on Sept. 14, Bloomberg News first reported on Wednesday.

The Viacom headquarters in New York.
Lucas Jackson | Reuters

Philippe Dauman stepped down as Viacom's chief executive officer in August following a protracted legal battle with controlling shareholder Sumner Redstone, raising investor expectations for more changes at the company. Dauman was replaced on an interim basis by former Chief Operating Officer Thomas Dooley.

Viacom, which owns MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, said in August that domestic advertising revenue continued to fall for the eighth consecutive quarter.

Viacom ended the second quarter with $12.4 billion of debt.

Shares of Viacom closed 2.5 percent higher at $40.54 on Nasdaq. Shares of CBS, part of Redstone's $40 billion media empire, rose 2 percent to $52.62 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Analysts at Moody's said in an August note that management was under pressure to enhance liquidity through options that could include selling a 49 percent stake in Paramount Studios.

Ninety-three-year-old Redstone, supported by daughter Shari, had opposed Dauman's plan to sell the Paramount stake, while Dauman saw it as a way to unlock value for shareholders, whose shares had plummeted in recent years.

Dauman, Viacom's non-executive chairman through Sept. 13, was allowed to present the Paramount sale plan to the board as part of the settlement he reached on Aug. 20 with Redstone's National Amusements, the privately held company that holds 80 percent of the voting shares of Viacom and CBS.

Last week, Dauman presented in writing some scenarios to the board, but did not name bidders or specifics, a separate source familiar with the situation said. The source wished to remain anonymous because conversations were confidential.

The Wall Street Journal first reported about Dauman's proposal on Sept. 1.