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Report: Verizon eyed CBS before Viacom merger talks gained traction

Verizon Communications Inc. was interested in buying CBS Corp. before merger discussions between Viacom Inc. and CBS heated up, unnamed sources told Deadline.

Citing a court filing, Deadline reported May 14 that CBS disclosed the interest of another would-be acquirer, but Shari Redstone, who controls CBS through her family-owned National Amusements Inc., discouraged the potential bidder from proposing a deal.

Verizon was reportedly engaged in high-level talks with CBS last year, but it is unclear how far the talks progressed

CBS and National Amusements declined to comment to Deadline about the matter, while Verizon did not respond to requests for comment.

CBS earlier sued National Amusements, which holds nearly 80% of the voting stock in both CBS and Viacom, accusing it of breaching its fiduciary duty. The lawsuit also requested the court to block National Amusements from interfering with a special meeting of the board of directors, at which the directors will consider declaring a dividend that would significantly dilute National Amusements' voting power in CBS. Specifically, the directors are looking at declaring a dividend of class A common stock to all of the company's class A and class B stockholders.

If issued, the dividend would dilute National Amusements' voting interest to 17%. CBS said this move would enable the company to operate as an independent, non-controlled company and more fully evaluate strategic alternatives.