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Those in the know contend that Freston's fate was sealed in June of 2004, when he and Moonves jointly replaced Mel Karmazin as Viacom's chief executives, effectively placing the famously hands-on Freston in the role of a multi-business administrator, which simply wasn’t in his power alley.
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While it’s difficult to ascertain precisely what inspired Sumner Redstone to end the reign of Tom Freston after 26 years at Viacom,  but only eight months into his latest job, most believe that key factors included Freston’s unfamiliarity with Wall Street arising from his background as a creative executive, the internecine battle with his CBS counterpart Les Moonves and his inability to develop a competitive Internet presence (though Freston’s pursuit of MySpace was stymied by Redstone’s refusal to green-light a competitive offer). But those in the know contend that Freston's fate was sealed in June of 2004, when he and Moonves jointly replaced Mel Karmazin as Viacom's chief executives, effectively placing the famously hands-on Freston in the role of a multi-business administrator (adding Paramount to his portfolio), which simply wasn’t in his power alley. From that point onward, through the splitting of the company eight months ago and the split with Tom Cruise just last week (in another enigmatic move by Redstone), Freston was no longer able to manifest his fabled skills as an innovator, robbing the company of one of its strongest and most reliable human assets. He is, after all, seen throughout the music and cable industries alike as a visionary, having helped create a major new business from scratch in 1981 with the formation of MTV, and subsequently growing Viacom's cable division (including Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, VH1 and BET) into a revenue-spewing media empire while changing the face of the music business at the same time. Indeed, few if any executives in music or media have left a bigger footprint in the last quarter century… As we've noted in this space, UMG had the inside track among the three strategic bidders for BMG Songs, so it isn't surprising that Bertelsmann accepted the company's $2 billion-and-change offer. Universal Music Publishing and BMG Songs have consistently flip-flopped between #3 and #4 in marketshare at 12-13% each, behind EMI Music Publishing (with around 25%) and Warner/Chappell (19%), meaning the combined company will be neck and neck with EMP for #1 worldwide—and it’s understandable that both EMI and UMG would claim that status, considering the complexities involved in valuating publishing assets. The claim has extra pizzazz for UMG, because it would be the first time in memory that one company has been #1 in both music and publishing... While the consolidation is likely to draw intense scrutiny from the EC, considering the recent derailing of WEMI, unlike the record business, music publishing does not directly affect the consumer, so the smart money is on the acquisition being approved…  According to insiders, well-respected UMP head David Renzer will run the combined companies, under the oversight of Zach Horowitz, who helped orchestrate the deal in league with Doug Morris and UMG Vice Chairman/CFO Nick Henny… In one subplot to the just-concluded auction, UMG's tentative victory takes a bit of short-term pressure off embattled Warner/Chappell topper Richard Blackstone, whom insiders say would not have been entrusted with overseeing a combined WCM/BMG Songs considering the difficulties he's having with his present responsibilities… Rob Stringer’s arrival last week at 550 Madison Ave. couldn’t have been better timed, as it coincided with the first #1 debut from Bob Dylan in three decades—a phenomenon Stringer has no desire to take credit for... Many marveling at the reinvigorated commercial status of the living legend, whose dramatically heightened visibility in recent months has been topped off by his appearance in Apple’s latest iPod TV spots… The entire industry is breathing a sigh of relief at the appearance of a pair of potential blockbusters from Dylan’s Columbia labelmate Beyonce (whose B'day is expected to bow north of 500k) and Justin Timberlake (whose FutureSex/LoveSounds could surpass 700k), with hopes that they'll drive traffic and create some much-needed momentum going into the fourth quarter… Those consecutive #1s from Dylan and Beyonce reaffirm the sense of stability and optimism at Steve Barnett’s new Columbia regime in the wake of Don Ienner’s exit just three months ago... Much laughter around the biz about the publicity campaign, complete with glitzy photo spread, spinning Atlantic co-rulers Julie Greenwald and Craig Kallman as staunch allies in a transparent attempt to turn around the industry perception... Names in the Rumor Mill: Van Toffler, Roger Faxon, Larry Jenkins, Merck Mercuriadis, Arthur Spivak, John Frankenheimer, Joe Simpson, Mathew Knowles and Jonetta Patton.
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