Redstone attended the prestigious Boston Latin School, where he graduated first in his class. He then attended Harvard College, where he completed his B.A. in three years. Later, Redstone served in World War II, serving with the team that decoded Japanese messages for the United States Army. Upon completion of his Army service, he worked in Washington, D.C. and attended Georgetown University Law School. He transferred into Harvard Law School and received his LL.B., later amended to a Juris Doctor, from that institution.
After completing law school, Redstone worked for the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, and then went into private practice. After a few years in practice, he joined his father's theater chain.
As National Amusements grew Redstone believed that content would become more important than distribution mechanisms. There would always exist channels of distribution (albeit in varied forms), but content was always going to be necessary (his famous quote is "content is king!"). He then made investments in Columbia Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Orion Pictures, and Paramount Pictures (the latter of the four of which Redstone's Viacom would buy in the 1990s-see below), all of which turned over huge profits when he chose to sell the stock in the early 1980s.
In 1979 he almost died in the Boston Copley Hotel fire. He crawled out of a window onto a ledge. He was not expected to survive and underwent 30 hours of surgery.
In 1999 he was divorced from his first wife of 55 years, Phyllis Gloria Raphael. He is the father of Shari Redstone and Brent Redstone. Three years after his divorce, he married Paula Fortunato, a former primary school teacher who is forty years his junior.
Viacom also owned MTV Networks (formerly known as Warner-AMEX Satellite Entertainment), which owned MTV and Nickelodeon. In addition, other included properties included Showtime Networks (a similar pay-television network to HBO and Cinemax) and The Movie Channel. Viacom acquired MTV Networks in 1985 for $550 million from Steve Ross' Warner Communications. (WCI bought American Express' share and then sold the entire entity to Viacom, as they felt that they could not make a lot of money from the venture and the bias of a studio owning cable channels would be a conflict of interest. The studio's stance changed in 1995, when as Time Warner it bought Turner Broadcasting.)
After a hostile takeover in 1987, Redstone won voting control of Viacom and led a series of acquisitions to make Viacom one of the top players in modern media (along with Bertelsmann, General Electric & Vivendi's NBC-Universal, News Corporation, Time Warner, Sony, and The Walt Disney Company).
Redstone replaced the team of Jonathan Dolgen and Sherry Lansing in 2004 after their nine-year winning streak ended and the studio has struggled since with the relatively inexperienced team of Brad Grey and Gail Berman who both came from the TV business. The Dolgen and Lansing years were the high point of Paramount in many other regards as well.
In addition to the aforementioned award winning films, They also doubled the size of Paramount's music publishing division, Famous Music; expanded UCI Cinemas into 13 foreign countries; created the Digital Cinema Initiatives standards body for the new digital film technology; introduced the DVD; and launched the UPN Network (later part of CBS and now called the CW). The current Paramount Pictures consists only of the movie studio, the other groups having been sold or parcelled out to other divisions given Grey's lack of prior management experience.
The Paramount acquisition was only the tip of the iceberg. Redstone purchased Blockbuster Entertainment, which included Aaron Spelling's production company and a huge library of films, much of which has been merged into Paramount Pictures. Blockbuster has now been spun off into its own independent entity. Redstone acquired CBS Corporation in 2000 and then spun it off as a separate company in 2005, taking with it all of Paramount's television shows and catalog. Following the CBS and Blockbuster Spinoffs, Viacom consists of MTV Networks (MTV, Nickelodeon, VH1, Noggin etc.), music publishing (Famous Music) and Paramount Pictures.
In December 2005, Redstone announced that Paramount had agreed to buy DreamWorks SKG for an estimated $1.6 billion. The acquisition was completed on February 1, 2006. A subsequent financing brought Viacom's investment down to $700 million. The animation studio, DreamWorks Animation, was not included in the deal as it has been its own company since late 2004, however Paramount now has the rights to distribute films by DreamWorks Animation.
After CBS and Viacom split in late 2005, Redstone remained chairman of both companies.
Documents have recently been made public which verify that, as part of a settlement from Sumner's first divorce, all of Sumner's stock is in irrevocable trusts that will be left for his grandchildren.
Redstone made arrangements to step down as CEO of Viacom in 2006. After Mel Karmazin resigned in 2004, two heirs apparent were named: Co-President & Co-COO Leslie Moonves (who was #2 to Karmazin at CBS; he was the former head of Warner Bros. Television and before that, Lorimar Television) and Co-President & Co-COO Tom Freston (who had been President & CEO of MTV Networks since 1987 and had been with the company since the formation of MTV Networks' precursor company, Warner-AMEX Satellite Entertainment). Since the Viacom split, Moonves has headed CBS, and Freston had headed the new Viacom, Inc.
When Moonves was promoted to Co-President & Co-COO with Tom Freston, there was speculation that he was on the short list of executives to replace Michael Eisner at the Walt Disney Company whose contract expired in 2006. Redstone has confirmed publicly in Vanity Fair that he originally offered the position only to Freston who initially turned it down and later relented when Redstone made it clear he was going to ask Moonves next.
On September 5 2006 Redstone removed Tom Freston as President and CEO of Viacom and replaced him with director and former Viacom counsel Philippe Dauman. He also brought back former CFO Tom Dooley. This was surprising to many, as Freston had been seen by many as Redstone's heir apparent and that Redstone touted that Freston would run the company after he retired. Redstone publicly stated that he let Freston go because of Viacom's lack of aggressiveness in the digital/online arena, lack of contact with investors, and a lackluster upfront (coupled with falling viewership) at MTV Networks.
However, the Midway holdings has drawn the ire of the National Football League, as Midway's "Blitz: The League", a game using a fictional league (previous versions had an NFL license), featured gratuitous violence and other material which the NFL would have rejected, all while CBS has NFL rights.
Viacom's broadcasting properties at the time of "A Passion To Win"'s release included several radio stations and two TV stations (WBZ CBS 4 (which had just become a CBS O&O through a merger with Westinghouse 4 years before Viacom and CBS merged) and WSBK UPN 38 in Redstone's hometown of Boston.)
Sumner is a noted philanthropist. He recently contributed $500,000 (the largest donation the charity could accept) to the Cambodian Children's Fund, a nonprofit program that provides a wide range of critical health and educational services to impoverished and abused children in the capital city of Phnom Penh. Redstone's contribution will be used to create the Sumner M. Redstone Child Rescue Center, a stand-alone facility scheduled to open during the fall of 2007 for children 5 to 16.
The Digital Dash.(Sumner Redstone's business planning)(E! Entertainment Television Inc. lauches television programs)
Sep 11, 2006; By Anne Becker Sumner Redstone wants Viacom to quicken its new-media pace. Can anyone move fast enough? Viacom Chairman Sumner...