Redstone is one of the most powerful media moguls of the late 20th
century. In his capacity as owner and chief executive officer of
Viacom, Inc., Redstone lords over Hollywood's Paramount Pictures
television and motion picture factory; a handful of cable TV networks
including MTV, The Movie Channel, Showtime, Nickelodeon, and VH1;
several radio and TV stations; and a TV production and syndication
business that owns the lucrative syndication rights to Roseanne,
A Different World, I Love Lucy, Perry Mason, The Twilight Zone,
and The Cosby Show. Viacom also has produced such prime
time fare as Matlock and Jake and the Fatman.
father Michael first sold linoleum from the back of a truck, then
later became a liquor wholesaler, and finally purchased two nightclubs
and set up one of the first drive-in movie operations in the United
States. By the time Sumner graduated from Harvard in 1943, his father
was concentrating on the movie industry. One of a number of struggling
owners in the fledgling drive-in business, he was unable to book
first run films because the vertically integrated Hollywood giants
favored their own theaters.
graduated first in his class from the prestigious Boston Latin School,
and then finished Harvard in less than three years. Upon graduation,
he was recruited by Edwin Reischauer, a future United States ambassador
to Japan, for an ace United States Army intelligence unit that would
become famous for cracking Japan's military codes. After three years
of service, during which he received two Army commendations, Redstone
entered the Harvard Law School.
graduation from Harvard Law in 1947, he began to practice law, first
in Washington, D.C. and then in Boston, but soon was lured into
the family movie theater business. Two decades later, Redstone was
president and chief executive officer of the family firm. Indeed,
even with his move to Viacom, Redstone has continued in the movie
exhibition business. At the end of the 20th century, National Amusements
operates more than 800 screens in a dozen states across the United
is a physically tough individual. In 1979, he survived a Boston
hotel fire by clinging to a third-floor window with one severely
burned hand. Doctors never expected him to live through 60 hours
of surgery, but he did. Medical experts told him he would never
walk again, yet in time Redstone began to exercise daily on a treadmill
and to play tennis regularly, wearing a leather strap that enabled
him to grip his racquet. Those who know the Boston tycoon say that
his recovery spurred on his ambition to succeed in the motion picture
and later television business.
he recovered from his burns, Redstone used his knowledge of the
movie business to begin selectively buying stock in Hollywood studios.
In a relatively short time he made millions of dollars buying and
selling stakes in 20th Century-Fox, Columbia Pictures Entertainment,
MGM/UA Entertainment, and Orion. At first, Viacom represented simply
another stock market investment, but soon Redstone realized that
this company needed new management and in 1987 he resolved to take
over and run the operation.
acquisition proved difficult. The company had rebuffed an earlier
takeover attempt by financier Carl Icahn, and Viacom executives
sought to buy and protect their company. Redstone became embroiled
in a bitter, six-month corporate raid which forced him to raise
his offer three times. Upon the formal merger, rather than break
up Viacom and sell off divisions to pay for the deal as his bankers
advised, Redstone slowly and quietly built Viacom into one of the
world's top TV corporations.
hired former Home Box Office chief executive Frank Biondi to build
on Viacom's diversity. For example, by the mid-1990s Viacom had
expanded its MTV music network far beyond its original base in the
United States to reach more than 200 million households in some
80 countries in Europe, Latin America, and Asia. Redstone felt that
his networks needed a Hollywood studio to make new products, and
in 1993 he decided to acquire Paramount. He soon found himself in
a battle with QVC Network, Inc. and in time joined forces with video
rental empire Blockbuster Entertainment to cement the deal.
more than two thirds of Viacom's voting stock in 1995 meant that
Sumner Redstone controlled a vast media empire second only to that
of Rupert Murdoch. Through the mid-1990s Forbes ranked Redstone
among the richest persons in the United States, with a net worth
in excess of $4 billion. Yet Redstone has never "gone Hollywood."
As the 20th century ends he continues to operate his collection
of enterprises, not from Paramount's sprawling studio on Melrose
Avenue in Hollywood, but from his longtime National Amusements,
Inc. headquarters in Dedham, Massachusetts.
Photo courtesy of Broadcasting and Cable
MURRAY REDSTONE. Born Sumner Murray Rothstein in Boston, Massachusetts,
U.S.A., 27 May 1923. Harvard University, B.A., 1944, LLB., 1947.
Married: Phyllis Gloria Raphael, 1947; children: Brent Dale and
Shari Ellin. Served as 1st Lt., U.S. Army, 1943-45. Admitted to
the Massachusetts Bar, 1947; instructor of law and labor management
at the University of San Francisco, 1947; law secretary, U.S. Court
of Appeals for 9th Circuit, San Francisco, 1947-48; admitted to
U.S. Court of Appeals (1st circuit), 1948; admitted to U.S. Court
of Appeals (1st and 9th circuits), 1948; special assistant to U.S.
Attorney General, Washington, D.C., 1948-51; admitted to U.S. Court
of Appeals (8th circuit), 1950; admitted to Washington, D.C. Bar,
1951; partner in firm of Ford, Bergson, Adams, Borkland & Redstone,
Washington, D.C., 1951-54; admitted to U.S. Supreme Court, 1952;
executive vice-president, Northeast Drive-In Theatre Corporation,
1954-68; president Northeast Theatre Corporation; assistant president
of Theatre Owners of America, 1960-63; president, 1964-65; chair
of the board of National Association of Theatre Owners, 1965-66;
chair of the board, president, and chief executive officer, National
Amusements, Inc., Dedham, Massachusetts, from 1967; chairman of
the board from 1986; chair of the board, Viacom International, Inc.
and Viacom, Inc., New York City; Professor, Boston University Law
School, 1982, 1985-86. Charitable work includes: chair, metropolitan
division North East Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Boston, 1963;
trustee, Children's Cancer Research Foundation; chair, American
Cancer Crusade, State of Massachusetts, 1984-86; vice-president
and member of executive committee of Will Rogers Memorial Fund;
board of directors, Boston Arts Festival; board of overseers Dana
Farber Cancer Center and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts; member,
presidential advisory committee on arts, John F.Kennedy Center for
Performing Arts; board of directors, John F.Kennedy Library Foundation,
1984-86. Member: American Bar Association; National Association
of Theatre Owners; Theatre Owners of America; board of directors,
Motion Picture Pioneers; Boston Bar Association; Massachusetts Bar
Association; Harvard Law School Association; American Judicature
Society. Recipient: Army Commendation Medal; William J. German Human
Relations Award American Jewish Com. Entertainment and Communication
Division, 1977; Communicator of the Year, B'nai B'rith Communications
and Cinema Lodge, 1980; Silver Shingle Award, Boston University
Law School, 1985; Man of the Year, Entertainment Industries Division
of United Jewish Appeal Federation, 1988; Variety New England Humanitarian
Award, 1989; Pioneer of the Year, Motion Picture Pioneers, 1991.
Home address: 98 Baldpate Hill Rd, Newton, MA 02159-2825, U.S.A.
Office address: National Amusements, Inc., 200 Elm St., Dedham,
Massachusetts 02026-4536, U.S.A.
Auletta, Ken. "The Last Studio in Play." The New Yorker,
4 October 1993.
Peter. "Owners Take Over the Asylum: Murdochian Moguls Become Hands-on."
Variety (Los Angeles), 26 February 1995.
Liz Roman. "'I Get Exhilarated by It.'" Forbes (New York),
22 October 1990.
John. "The Man with the Iron Grasp." Time (New York), 27
Mark. "The MTV Tycoon: Sumner Redstone is Turning Viacom Into the
Hottest Global TV Network." Business Week (New York), 21
"Sumner at the Summit." Business Week (New York), 28 February
Robert. "Late Bloomer." Forbes (New York), 17 October 1994.
Marla. "Winning is the Only Thing." Forbes (New York), 17
Christopher. "Ready to Take on the World" (interview). Broadcasting
& Cable (Washington, D.C.), 20 September 1993.
"Sumner Redstone: A Drive to Win." Broadcasting (Washington,
D.C.), 14 November 1988.
See also Cable
Television (MTV); Syndication