Will Spielberg, Geffen Walk From Dreamworks?

Peter Bart reports in today's L.A. editions of Variety that Viacom chief Sumner Redstone's relationship with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen is going south.

 

According to his report-which relies on unnamed sources-the duo could walk in 15 months if their relationship with Mr. Redstone, whose purchase of Dreamworks through Paramount was regarded as a coup in Hollywood, does not improve.

 

Sumner Redstone, the chairman of Viacom, has knowingly or unknowingly emerged as a lightning rod in the relationship, DreamWorks sources alleged. Redstone himself insists his relations with Spielberg are friendly, but sources said both the filmmaker and Geffen feel the Viacom chairman has cold-shouldered them, thus aggravating earlier perceived snubs and credit-grabs by the studio.

 

Mr. Geffen called Mr. Bart from his yacht, location unknown, on Friday, to try to quash the reports, citing their pleasure with marketing and distribution for Dreamworks successes Disturbia, Transformers, and Shrek the Third. But if Mr. Bart's sources are right, it would be further evidence that not all is well in the house of Redstone. Last week, reports he was feuding with his daughter, Shari, put the inheritance of Mr. Redstone's media empire in doubt.

 

Going public with the dispute [with his daughter] … has compounded Redstone's image as a contentious corporate warrior. Starting with his public firing of Tom Cruise and his dismissal of the popular Tom Freston, the Viacom chairman has found himself embroiled in a series of high-profile incidents. At the same time, Redstone has vastly increased his philanthropic contributions and, in an almost nightly succession of dinners, has tried to strengthen relationships with key executives.