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Fired Freston Still Wants His Free Lunch

Oct. 27 2008, Published 7:07 a.m. ET

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BRAVE FACE Freston Recently-canned Viacom CEO Tom Freston is keeping his date with the Center for Communication, unemployment be damned.

When the Center mailed out save-the-date cards in June for its annual awards luncheon on October 25, it had no inkling Viacom's cranky chairman, Sumner Redstone, was only weeks away from firing this year's honoree as penance for his company's slower-than-expected growth. When news of Freston's ousting broke last month, Catherine Williams, the Center's executive director, says she figured they'd be toasting him in absentia.

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But the longtime MTV boss got in touch last week to say he was still on board. "It just shows he really is a terrific guy," says Williams.

Or maybe it just shows how popular he is compared to his old employer. With a host committee stocked with rival media titans—News Corp.'s Rupert Murdoch, Time Warner's Dick Parsons, Sony's Sir Howard Stringer and GE's Bob Wright, among them—the event has all the makings of a Redstone roast.

Judy McGrath and John Sykes, two of Freston's protégées, are also on the committee. And if there's any lingering awkwardness in the room, Stephen Colbert, the afternoon's featured speaker, is the man to exploit it. Unless, of course, he doesn't want to piss off his boss, Sumner Redstone.

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