Just two weeks after publicly breaking with the movie star Tom Cruise, Sumner M. Redstone, Viacom’s 83-year-old chairman, announced an even bigger separation yesterday: he forced out his top executive, Tom Freston, reasserting his control over the media giant he built over decades.
The ouster of Mr. Freston came just eight months after Mr. Redstone split his company into two parts — CBS and Viacom — putting Mr. Freston in charge of Viacom, which he expected to be the faster-growing company.
It has not worked out that way. While CBS shares have risen 9.2 percent this year, shares of Viacom — owner of MTV, Nickelodeon and Paramount — have fallen 11 percent as of Friday. Mr. Redstone, also chairman of CBS, has told associates he believed Mr. Freston had not pursued opportunities on the Internet aggressively enough.
Viacom shares have suffered because of concern that advertisers, and young audiences, will leave the company’s cable networks for the Internet.