Sumner Redstone Dead at 97: Mogul Helped Shape Modern Media Industry


Sumner Redstone, a towering determine in media who constructed his father’s drive-in theater enterprise into an empire that included Viacom, Paramount Photos and CBS Corp., solely to see his legacy tarnished in his ultimate years by company battles and sordid allegations by former girlfriends, died Aug. 11 at his dwelling in Los Angeles. He was 97.

Nationwide Amusements, the Redstone household’s non-public holding firm that controls what’s now ViacomCBS, confirmed that Redstone died Tuesday afternoon. After years of public battles with relations, Redstone had been in shut contact over the previous three years along with his daughter, ViacomCBS chairman Shari Redstone, and others in his prolonged household.

“My father led a unprecedented life that not solely formed leisure as we all know it at this time, however created an unimaginable household legacy,” Shari Redstone instructed Selection in an announcement. “By way of all of it, we shared an important love for each other and he was a beautiful father, grandfather and great-grandfather. I’m so proud to be his daughter and I’ll miss him at all times.”

Nationwide Amusements famous Sumner Redstone’s function in shaping the trendy media panorama along with his early profession within the exhibition enterprise, adopted by his acquisitions of Viacom, Paramount Photos and CBS Corp. He famously coined the phrase “content material is king” to emphasise his curiosity in programming and manufacturing property.

“Sumner was a person of unmatched ardour and perseverance, who devoted his life to his perception within the energy of content material,” Nationwide Amusements stated. “Together with his passing, the media trade he liked so dearly loses certainly one of its nice champions. Sumner, a loving father, grandfather and great-grandfather, might be tremendously missed by his household who take consolation realizing that his legacy will stay on for generations to come back.”

The query of Sumner Redstone’s legacy is far clearer than it could have been only a few years in the past when Shari Redstone was embroiled in authorized battles with a few of her father’s longtime enterprise associates over management of his enterprise pursuits. Upon his dying, Sumner Redstone’s property will formally be taken over by the Redstone household belief that may handle his controlling stake in ViacomCBS. Shari Redstone and different relations are among the many trustees.

The Boston-bred mogul who dominated his companies with an iron fist was pressured to step down as chairman of CBS and Viacom in early February 2016 amid stress from shareholders and activists questioning his psychological capability. Redstone famously vowed he would stay ceaselessly, so he wouldn’t trouble choosing his successor. He served as ViacomCBS chairman emeritus and chairman-CEO of Nationwide Amusements till the tip.

“Sumner Redstone was a superb visionary, operator and dealmaker, who single-handedly remodeled a family-owned drive-in theater firm into a world media portfolio,” stated ViacomCBS president-CEO Bob Bakish. “He was a drive of nature and fierce competitor, who leaves behind a profound legacy in each enterprise and philanthropy. ViacomCBS will keep in mind Sumner for his unparalleled ardour to win, his limitless mental curiosity, and his full dedication to the corporate. We lengthen our deepest sympathies to the Redstone household at this time.”

In 2016, a drawn-out authorized battle for management of Viacom pitted his daughter, Shari Redstone, in opposition to his one-time protege, Philippe Dauman, with former girlfriends Manuela Herzer and Sydney Holland in key supporting roles. In line with her father’s tenacious instance, Shari Redstone prevailed in what at occasions grew to become down-and-dirty brawls along with her father’s former mistresses, Dauman and former CBS chief Leslie Moonves.

As late as October 2015, Sumner Redstone was stated to be demanding a each day weight loss program of steak and intercourse, in response to courtroom paperwork filed by Herzer. He indulged these appetites regardless of principally being bedridden, fed by means of a tube, surrounded by around-the-clock caretakers and unable to talk intelligibly due to a extreme speech obstacle. He was a shadow of the powerhouse who as soon as out-dueled fellow-magnates Barry Diller and John Malone to take management of Paramount Photos.

Redstone was among the many final of a breed, a strong-willed within the mould of William Randolph Hearst and William Paley, who could also be remembered as a lot for the battles he fought as for the successes he achieved within the leisure enterprise. He amassed among the best-known holdings within the trade, together with CBS, Paramount Photos, MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, BET and Showtime.

Together with his six-foot body, shock of orange hair, Boston brogue and billionaire’s bearing, Redstone in his heyday of the 1980s and ’90s minimize fairly a determine in Hollywood’s enterprise and social circles. He was revered by fellow moguls resembling Rupert Murdoch and Ted Turner for his willingness to wager massive on mergers and acquisitions and to talk his thoughts. He was feared by many who handed by means of Viacom’s doorways as a demanding boss who paid slavish consideration to the corporate’s inventory worth. And he had an urge for food for the excessive life, significantly because it associated to feminine companions.

Redstone was a distinguished exhibitor who had been a pioneer of the multiplex idea for film theaters within the 1960s. He purchased and offered at a revenue stakes in 20th Century Fox, MGM/United Artists and Columbia Photos earlier than he set his sights on constructing his personal studio empire.

Redstone grew to become a well known determine in Hollywood along with his 1987 acquisition of Viacom in a leveraged buyout valued at $Three billion. Six years later he waged a hard-fought warfare to land Paramount Photos for $10 billion, and in 1999 he clinched a cope with Westinghouse to take over CBS. That deal put CBS and Viacom underneath the identical company roof — till Redstone determined that Viacom’s inventory was undervalued. He cut up up them again into separate entities in 2006.

Redstone was a fighter by nature, and the tally of executives who battled with him, each from inside his firms and elsewhere, is intensive, together with Wayne Huizenga, Frank Biondi, Mel Karmazin, Tom Freston, Jonathan Dolgen, Diller and eventually Dauman, his longtime lawyer and enterprise consiglieri. Redstone famously publicly dropped Tom Cruise from a profitable deal at Paramount in 2006 as a result of he felt the actor’s uncommon conduct had damage the ticket gross sales for “Mission: Unimaginable III.”

Redstone typically had stormy relations along with his household, together with his brother and his kids, Shari and Brent. He efficiently purchased out his son’s share of the household enterprise however did not get his daughter to do the identical regardless of a $1 billion provide. His marriage to Phyllis Raphael resulted in 1999 after 52 years. In 2003, he wed former schoolteacher Paula Fortunato, however the union was over by 2008.

Redstone’s ultimate years have been marked by tabloid eruptions about numerous mistresses and relations, who fell out and in of favor at Redstone’s expansive dwelling within the gated Beverly Park enclave within the hills above Los Angeles. Lengthy-time companion Herzer and some-time girlfriend Holland reportedly obtained $150 million in money and property over a five-year interval. Redstone spurned each in 2015 and his attorneys vowed the next 12 months to go to courtroom to aim to get well the presents.

Herzer’s lawsuit, filed in November 2015 grew to become the primary in a collection of nasty authorized challenges that outlined Redstone’s ultimate days. The Argentina-born socialite misplaced the case in Could 2016 when a Los Angeles decide turned apart her request to be reinstalled as the last word overseer of Redstone’s well being care. Herzer and Redstone’s attorneys fought it out for one more 18 months earlier than Herzer settled in January 2019 by paying Redstone $3.25 million for presents the mogul had given her through the years.

Importantly, the Herzer case additionally cemented the reemergence of daughter Shari Redstone in her father’s life. After the courtroom choice, Shari grew to become an much more common presence. Her camp stated the rapprochement was attainable as a result of Redstone’s grasping and controlling feminine companions had lastly been faraway from his life. The “different ladies,” in flip, stated it was Shari Redstone who was exerting undue affect over her more and more frail father — a cost leveled in opposition to Shari by Herzer, Dauman and Moonves.

The picture of the twilight Sumner Redstone — glassy-eyed and unable to specific his plentiful opinions — marked a tragic departure from his youthful self. By the mid-1980s, he noticed the burgeoning worth of cable tv and went after Viacom. He invested freely in govt expertise and stars — as long as they delivered. And he by no means ceased to be a cheerleader for the film enterprise the place he obtained his begin.

The depth of Redstone’s ambition and drive could also be defined by an earlier incident wherein he cheated dying. In 1979, he was caught in a lodge fireplace in Boston and was burned on greater than 45% of his physique as he hung from a window ledge. He wasn’t anticipated to stay. However after 60 hours of intense surgical procedures, Redstone recovered. “I can say with certainty that my will to win, my tenacity, had rather a lot to do with my restoration,” he wrote in his 2001 memoir “A Ardour to Win.”

Skilled as a lawyer, Redstone was fervently litigious all through his profession, particularly on antitrust points, relationship again to a landmark lawsuit in 1958 wherein his Nationwide Amusements theater firm accused the key studios of conspiring to keep away from providing films pretty to all exhibitors. In 1981, the corporate sued Disney’s Buena Vista over the observe of blind bidding, on this case, for the film “The Black Gap”; the studio had required enormous sums from theaters upfront, whereas exhibitors didn’t know what others have been providing. Disney ultimately settled, and the observe of blind bidding went away. In 1989, Redstone sued Time Inc. for not affording carriage to Viacom’s Showtime on its cable programs, which carried Time’s personal HBO channel. Redstone ultimately prevailed: Showtime was given distribution and Viacom obtained money and different advantages.

Within the digital period, he personally directed Viacom’s technique to wage copyright infringement warfare in opposition to Google’s YouTube when he realized how broadly and shortly clips and pirated applications from Viacom channels have been popping up on the Web large’s archive. Viacom’s years-long struggle helped spur YouTube to make concessions to copyright house owners by taking down movies when knowledgeable of infringement violations.

For all his years in Hollywood, Redstone by no means misplaced his Boston Brahmin accent or his New England toughness. Lengthy after age would dictate that his hair flip grey, Redstone maintained a deep-orange hue atop his head.

Born Sumner Rothstein (the household title was modified when he was 17), he was the son of an immigrant aspiring entrepreneur father who ultimately got here to personal native nightclubs, together with the Boston department of the well-known Latin Quarter. His father purchased his first drive-in on Lengthy Island in 1934.

Redstone was accepted into the elite Boston Latin Faculty, the place he graduated first in his class. He entered Harvard School however left to enlist within the armed forces, the place he served in an intelligence unit decoding Japanese messages throughout World Struggle II. He returned to civilian life and obtained his legislation diploma from Harvard. Redstone managed to shake himself free of the household’s theater enterprise and was a legislation secretary for the U.S. Courtroom of Appeals in Washington after which a particular assistant to the U.S. legal professional normal. He then grew to become a accomplice within the legislation agency of Ford, Bergson, Adams, Borkland and Redstone earlier than returning to the household enterprise.

However by 1954, Redstone returned to the household fold of what was then New England Drive In Theaters. He tackled the enterprise with attribute ambition, implementing an enlargement plan by shopping for underlying property to the theaters he had acquired or constructed. In 1967, he joined the Massachusetts-based exhibitor Nationwide Amusements as president. He reorganized the corporate that grew within the following decade to change into one of many 10 largest theater house owners within the U.S., with greater than 600 places. The privately held Nationwide Amusements remained the holding firm for Redstone’s controlling stakes in CBS and Viacom, amongst different investments.

Involved that exhibition was not rising quick sufficient, Redstone started investing in media within the early 1980s, scoring income from his minority stakes in Fox, Columbia MGM/UA and Orion Photos. He quickly grew to become a billionaire and certainly one of Forbes’ richest males within the U.S.

However that was not sufficient.

In 1987, he started his daring takeover of Viacom, which owned the MTV Networks, Nickelodeon, Showtime in addition to cable programs, TV and radio stations; the transfer was seen as an virtually foolhardy threat for the New England theater proprietor. However Redstone prevailed after a protracted six-month battle. He borrowed a lot of the cash for the leveraged buyout. He would later take the corporate and its debt public, additionally thought-about a extremely dangerous transfer.

Redstone ultimately moved to New York to work with Viacom chief Frank Biondi. He turned over the household’s theater enterprise to his son-in-law, Ira Korff. After seemingly trying to purchase all of Orion Photos, he obtained concerned in a battle with Metromedia large John Kluge. He misplaced this one however made a good-looking revenue from his sale of his inventory to Kluge. He then claimed he was not all in favour of Orion, consuming himself with working his new media empire.

However Redstone had lengthy coveted a Hollywood studio and, in 1993, the chance arose for him to behave on that want. His $7.5 billion provide to purchase Paramount led to a battle with former Fox and Paramount CEO Barry Diller and his ally, cable mogul John Malone. When it appeared that Redstone had misplaced to Diller, who had run up his bid to about $9.5 billion, Redstone bounced again with a $10 billion bid.

Diller folded, and Redstone had Paramount.

The Paramount bid had pushed down the value of Viacom inventory from the mid-$60s to the mid-$30s, jeopardizing a $1 billion bid for Blockbuster Leisure. Redstone needed to make films at Par, present them on his cable channels and hire them out at Blockbuster. He additionally managed to purchase Blockbuster. However a decade later, in 2004, Viacom spun off the enterprise and took a $1.Three billion writedown on the worth of the video chain.

Essentially the most transformative deal of Redstone’s profession, although, was his acquisition in 2000 of CBS from its dad or mum Westinghouse. It was at the peak of the period of the big media conglomerate. That very same 12 months, AOL bought Time Warner to type the most important media firm on the earth by revenues. However the CBS community, its native TV and radio stations by no means made for match with Viacom’s high-flying cable properties, within the eyes of Wall Avenue. On the similar time, Redstone’s relationship with CBS topper Mel Karmazin, who grew to become Viacom president, continued to deteriorate till Karmazin resigned in June 2004. Leslie Moonves, the chief who spearheaded the revival of the Eye community within the earlier decade, was handed the reins following Karmazin’s departure.

In 2005, Redstone made the choice to separate aside his media firm and to function chairman of the 2 separate entities, each managed by Nationwide Amusements. Redstone anticipated the de-consolidation development in media that may later be adopted by Time Warner and Cablevision Techniques, amongst others. His hope was that the inventory worth of each CBS and Viacom would profit by permitting buyers to extra tightly deal with broadcast or cable property.

After the cut up, Moonves remained CEO of CBS whereas former MTV Networks chief Tom Freston grew to become CEO of Viacom. A 12 months later, Redstone shocked the trade when he abruptly fired Freston for what many believed was Redstone’s frustration over Viacom’s failure to win social networking website MySpace. On reflection, it’s clear that Viacom dodged a bullet as Information Corp. purchased MySpace for $580 million in 2005 and offered it in 2011 for $35 million. In Freston’s place, Redstone positioned his longtime lawyer, Dauman.

The difficulty of succession was not one Redstone ever addressed in public. The frequency of the query as his years superior spurred his well-known vow to “stay ceaselessly.” The image was additional muddied when he had a falling out along with his daughter, Shari, who served as president of Nationwide Amusements and whom many figured would take over for her father. However Redstone’s grip on CBS and Viacom — he managed practically 80% of the voting shares in every — allowed him to wave off stress from buyers to element a selected plan following his dying.

As a part of his divorce settlement along with his first spouse, Phyllis, it was disclosed that every one of Redstone’s inventory could be left to his grandchildren. The Redstone Household Belief will inherit Nationwide Amusements property and be run on behalf of the grandchildren by a gaggle of seven trustees.

Amid the authorized battles Herzer, Holland and Dauman, Shari Redstone started to exert extra affect as Viacom’s fortunes declined. She introduced new board members into Viacom and was instrumental in choosing Bakish, who was previously Viacom Worldwide Media Networks, as president and CEO in December 2016. Shari Redstone instructed mates and colleagues how necessary Viacom was to her father and the way a lot she needed to see it restored to well being.

After years of on-again, off-again negotiations, Shari Redstone succeeded in bringing Viacom and CBS Corp. again collectively in a merger accomplished in December 2019, led by Bakish. In September 2018, Moonves was ousted as chairman-CEO of CBS Corp. after additionally battling Shari Redstone for management of CBS and after allegations of previous sexual misconduct surfaced.

A longtime philanthropist, Redstone gave generously all through his profession to causes starting from burn restoration analysis to the Cambodian Youngsters’s Fund to Autism Speaks. He constantly made Forbes’ journal checklist of the wealthiest folks on the earth. In 2012, Paramount renamed its Administration Constructing the Sumner Redstone Constructing in a dedication ceremony.

In closing out his memoir, Redstone wrote: “Chronological age has little to do with mental capability, the power to work, the power to guide. In truth, I typically shock my youthful colleagues by being the primary to simply accept and, certainly, recommend new concepts and new agendas when the idea is I’ll maintain on to the previous ones like a bulldog …. I nonetheless need to be No. 1.”

James Rainey and Tom Lowry contributed to this report.


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