The billionaire owner of Viacom and CBS Sumner Redstone has died at his home in Los Angeles aged 97.
Born Sumner Murray Rothstein in Boston in 1923, Redstone took his father’s small drive-in cinema business and turned it into one of the United States’ biggest media companies that also included Paramount Pictures, MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and publisher Simon & Schuster.
After studying law, he made a series of astute acquisitions to grow his portfolio, eventually rivalling famed media owners Rupert Murdoch and Ted Turner.
Described as having a “six-foot frame, shock of orange hair, Boston brogue and billionaire’s bearing”, Redstone was a demanding boss who refused to give up day-to-day control of the business even into his 90s.
This had to be wrenched from him by shareholders in 2016 with court-ordered psychiatric assessments of the 92-year old forcing him to resign.
Estimated to be worth around $5 billion, Redstone gave to medical schools and universities, and served on the committee of Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston.
The mogul “led an extraordinary life that not only shaped entertainment as we know it today but created an incredible family legacy,” said his daughter Shari, who litigated against her father’s associates over control of CBS and Viacom.
Redstone saw his fair share of legal battles, his son Brent having sued him for $1 billion in 2006, while a lawsuit involving a former girlfriend was settled in 2019.