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Viacom Names Top Wal-Mart Executive to Head Blockbuster

March 29, 1996

NEW YORK (AP) _ Video rental chain Blockbuster Entertainment Group named the heir apparent at Wal-Mart as its new chairman today, tapping a retailing veteran who helped build the discount chain into the world’s biggest video seller.

Bill Fields, 47, has headed Wal-Mart’s main discount store business since 1993 and had been widely viewed as the next chairman of the company. For Viacom, Blockbuster’s parent, the hiring is a coup after Viacom chairman Frank Biondi was fired and Blockbuster’s previous chief quit.

``He shares our vision that Blockbuster is at the beginning of a dynamic new growth curve, and will continue to capture an even larger share of the worldwide market,″ Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone said of Fields.

The loss of Fields was seen as another blow to Wal-Mart, which has seen weaker profits lately. Wal-Mart’s stock was off 5 percent in early trading this morning. Viacom was up almost 3 percent.

Viacom also said Gerald Geddis, who has headed Blockbuster’s overseas operations, would be president and chief operating officer.

Blockbuster appears intent on increasing its video rental operations through international expansion at a time when it faces increased competition from satellite-delivered television.

``Fueled by its core video rental business, and with Viacom’s commitment and support, I am confident that Blockbuster will accelerate its growth and fully realize its tremendous global potential,″ Fields said.

Viacom’s stock was up $1.12 1/2 at $40.62 1/2 on the American Stock Exchange this morning. Wal-Mart’s stock was off $1.25 at $22.75 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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