Sumner Redstone, the media mogul who transformed his father’s drive-in theater business into a prolific corporate empire, has died at the age of 97. His daughter, current ViacomCBS chairman Shari Redstone, confirmed the news to CNN. “My father led an extraordinary life that not only shaped entertainment as we know it today, but created an incredible family legacy,” said Redstone. “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.” Sumner Redstone died at his home in Los Angeles on August 11.
The Boston-born Redstone became CEO of his father’s company, National Amusements, in 1967 and operated under the professional belief that content was far more important than distribution, famously coining the phrase “Content is king.” In the 80s, Redstone made a fortune when he sold his stock in various film studios, including 20th Century Fox and Paramount Pictures—the latter of which he went on to acquire in 1994, seven years after his hostile acquisition of Viacom. Redstone used his wealth and power to build an empire that also included CBS and Simon & Schuster.
Redstone’s latter years were marked by litigation and scandal in both his personal and professional life. In 2010, Redstone was caught on tape attempting to bribe a journalist into giving up a confidential source regarding a leak at MTV, owned by ViacomCBS. The mogul was forced out of his position as executive chairman of the company in 2016 and replaced by his daughter, Shari, who had only recently re-entered his life after years of turmoil within the family. Redstone remained involved with his business interests in his final years despite concerns about his mental capacity and age. As the Wall Street Journal reported in 2018, it had become more difficult for Redstone to communicate, so he was given an iPad programmed with three responses: “Yes,” “No,” and “Fuck you.”