Midway takeover likely

Viacom CEO increases stake in underperforming publisher; puts daughter on board and hires specialist to advise on takeover.


All signs point to the eventual takeover of the venerable but limping game publisher Midway by Viacom CEO and chairman Sumner Redstone. Such a scenario is bolstered by reports that Redstone, in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission today, said he has hired a financial advisor to evaluate options should he increase his interest in the publisher to 80 percent of its common stock from its current 72.4 percent level.

In addition, Dow Jones is reporting that at Redstone's request Midway will reduce the number of seats on its board of directors from 11 to eight and that Redstone has nominated his daughter, Shari E. Redstone, to join the board.

Though the stock reports 17 consecutive quarterly losses, Redstone has demonstrated unflagging interest in the company, increasing his stake in it from less than 30 percent at the beginning of the year to its current level. He now owns 49,389,066 common shares of Midway Games, including 687,600 additional shares he purchased on both Friday, June 4, and Monday, June 7.

A survey of analysts' comments in a number of business journals today suggests a timeline that would see Redstone acquire sufficient Midway stock to take the company private, to be followed by the sale of the company to Viacom. Such a scenario would give Viacom the means to enter the game space through the Midway Games infrastructure. Viacom could then leverage its many brands--including MTV and Nickelodeon--to become a significant publisher.

As the Wall Street Journal reported, "Viacom's stable of high-profile content is likely to remain among the most sought-after intellectual property for video games for the foreseeable future."

It is no small benefit to Redstone that a known opponent to Viacom's entry into the game space is no longer a factor--Mel Karmazin, former Viacom president, resigned from the company last week. Reportedly, Karmazin was not in favor of such a move.

Midway shares closed today at $12.63, up 65 cents, on the news of Redstone's SEC filing. Before close, shares of Midway hit a 52-week high of $13.49.

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