Sumner Redstone, legendary media tycoon, dead at 97

Redstone transformed his family's drive-in move theater business into a multibillion-dollar media empire.

Updated: August 12, 2020 - 1:42pm

Sumner Redstone, the storied media mogul who transformed his family's drive-in movie theater business into a Hollywood empire, died on Tuesday, according to a statement from his family's company, National Amusements. He was 97.

Redstone's daughter, Shari, who is currently the chair of ViacomCBS said in a statement, "My father led an extraordinary life that not only shaped entertainment as we know it today, but created an incredible family legacy ... 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."

Redstone formerly controlled about 80% of the voting stock of Viacom and CBS through National Amusements, his family's private holding company. Due to persistent rumors of declining health in recent years, Redstone resigned as executive chairman of CBS in 2016 and renounced his voting rights on the Viacom board in 2017. 

In 2012, Redstone credited his acquisition of Viacom as his greatest business achievement, saying "Without Viacom, there would have been no Paramount. And there would have been no CBS." Redstone merged CBS with Viacom in 2000, spinning it off into a separate company five years later. CBS's current holdings include the Showtime network and publisher Simon & Schuster. 

Redstone hailed from a modest background. He was raised in Boston, where his father, a nightclub operator and entrepreneur, started a small movie theater business called National Amusements, which Sumner turned into a billion-dollar conglomerate.

Prior to hopping aboard the family business, Sumner attended Harvard University, after which he worked as a Japanese code breaker for U.S. Army intelligence during World War II. He then attended Harvard Law School and served as a law secretary with the U.S. Court of Appeals, then as special assistant to the Attorney General. 

Sumner is survived by his son and daughter, as well as five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. 

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