Sumner Redstone to step down from Viacom board

By Jessica Toonkel (Reuters) - Controlling shareholder Sumner Redstone will step down from the Viacom board of directors after the company's annual meeting in February, according to a company filing on Friday. The ailing, 93-year old Redstone, who has not attended an annual investor meeting since 2014, will continue to participate in meetings in a "non-voting" role, according to the filing. It was Redstone's decision to step down, according to a source familiar with the situation, who did not want to be named because discussions were private. Redstone's decision marks the end of an era for the elder media mogul, who once considered Viacom his crown jewel. He bought Viacom through a hostile takeover in 1987, and later added Paramount Pictures and CBS. He split Viacom from CBS in 2006. However, Redstone's health and mental capacity has been a point of inquiry as of late. The media mogul has trouble speaking and needs around-the-clock care, according to court documents filed in a suit by his former girlfriend questioning his mental capacity. Redstone and his daughter Shari Redstone control Viacom, which owns cable networks including Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, and CBS Corp , home to HBO and shows like "The Big Bang Theory," through their privately held movie theater company National Amusements Inc. The announcement that Redstone is stepping down from the board came just days after he and Shari Redstone withdrew a proposal for CBS and Viacom to explore a merger. Redstone resigned as executive chair of the board last February to become chairman emeritus. He was replaced by then-Chief Executive Officer Philippe Dauman, who departed in August after losing a fight for control of the company to the Redstones. Redstone stepped down as executive chair of CBS when he became chairman emeritus at Viacom. A CBS spokesman declined to comment if Redstone would step down from the CBS board. CBS' proxy comes out in the spring because it operates on a different fiscal calendar than Viacom. Viacom is working to turn itself around as it has suffered from declining ratings and advertising revenue. Shares of Viacom rose 2.5 percent to $35.77 in morning New York Stock Exchange trading. (Reporting By Jessica Toonkel; Editing by Anna Driver, Nick Zieminski and Meredith Mazzilli)