Imagine you have $800 million due to various banks in two months, and your chief holdings are a couple of billion dollars in rapidly-declining CBS and Viacom stock. You've opened some delicate negotiations with the bankers into how you'll, uh, pay them. What do you do? If you're Sumner Redstone, you immediately take the obvious option — sell some more shares! — off the table, and then proclaim you don't know how all this happened because you don't really run your company (National Amusements). Then in the future, presumably, you can tell your mouthy daughter you were "forced" to sell her movie theater chain because it was the only option left, ha ha. That'll teach her to try and be your successor! That's just how Sumner rolls, said the Wall Street Journal:
Mr. Redstone characterized the [prior October] sale of his $233 million of stock as an "infinitesimal percentage of what I own. I still own billions of dollars of stock." The stake he sold represented about 10% of his holding at the time. "We sold a little bit and the rest is not for sale."
...The drama over Mr. Redstone's stock sale raises questions over why National Amusements didn't pre-empt the situation by opening discussions with banks earlier... "While I control National Amusements, I'm not involved in the day-to-day operations," Mr. Redstone said... "Perhaps in the future I'll get more involved."
The ultra-rich: Learning from their mistakes, one billion-dollar bungle at a time.