Sumner Redstone, Billionaire Media Mogul, Dead at 97 - Rolling Stone
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Media Mogul Sumner Redstone Dead at 97

Entertainment magnate led Viacom, Paramount Pictures and CBS over fractious career

DEDHAM, MA - OCTOBER 2: Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone in screening room at National Amusements. (Photo by John Blanding/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Sumner Redstone, the media mogul who oversaw an entertainment empire that included CBS, Viacom, and Paramount Pictures, is dead at 97.

John Blanding/"The Boston Globe"/Getty Images

Sumner Redstone — the media mogul who oversaw an entertainment empire that included CBS, Viacom, and Paramount Pictures — has died at the age of 97.

National Amusements, the Redstone family’s private holding company and the name of the drive-in movie theater family business Redstone inherited, confirmed Redstone’s death Tuesday afternoon, Variety reports. No cause of death was provided.

“Sumner was a man of unrivaled passion and perseverance, who devoted his life to his belief in the power of content,” National Amusements said. “With his passing, the media industry he loved so dearly loses one of its great champions. Sumner, a loving father, grandfather and great-grandfather, will be greatly missed by his family who take comfort knowing that his legacy will live on for generations to come.”

Born Sumner Rothstein in Boston in 1923, Redstone transformed his family’s chain of drive-in movie theaters in the Northeast into one of the largest U.S. media conglomerations over the span of 25 years, beginning with National Amusements’ acquisition of the one-time CBS syndication division Viacom in 1986; Prior to National Amusements buying controlling interesting in the company, Viacom purchased media properties like MTV, Nickelodeon and Showtime.

As Viacom continued to expand its reach — it was Redstone, and not Bill Gates, who coined the phrase “Content is King” — the company merged with Paramount Pictures in the early Nineties, yet another hostile takeover that seemed to define Redstone’s fractious career; in order to purchase Paramount outright, Redstone had to sell off holdings like Madison Square Garden and the New York Knicks.

Just five years later, in 1999, Redstone added CBS to his portfolio for a reported $37 billion. He remained at the helm of his empire until 2016 when questions over Redstone’s mental facilities led to a power struggle over his empire. Ultimately, his daughter Shari became chairperson of the newly reformed ViacomCBS in 2019.

Shari Redstone said of her father Wednesday in a statement to Variety: “My father led an extraordinary life that not only shaped entertainment as we know it today but created an incredible family legacy. Through it all, we shared a great love for one another and he was a wonderful father, grandfather and great-grandfather. I am so proud to be his daughter and I will miss him always.”

In This Article: CBS, obit, Obituary, RSX, Viacom

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