Sumner Redstone, who built billion-dollar media empire, dies at 97

In his later years, Redstone found himself embroiled in a number of controversies.

Sumner Redstone 370 (photo credit: Reuters)
Sumner Redstone 370
(photo credit: Reuters)
Sumner Redstone, the Jewish media mogul whose aggressive acquisitions and readiness to resort to litigation led to the creation of an empire that included CBS and Viacom, died Tuesday at age 97.
Born Sumner Murray Rothstein in Boston in 1923, Redstone built the chain of movie theaters his father had started into a global media behemoth that would come to include CBS, Paramount Pictures, Simon & Schuster, MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon.
He served on the executive committee of Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston and was a supporter of a number of other charities, mainly focused on healthcare and higher education.
A graduate of Harvard Law School, Redstone began his career in the federal judiciary. He left in the 1950s to work for his father. In the 1960s he began tearing down drive-in theaters owned by the family business and building multiplex cinemas that could show multiple movies at a time.
A turning point came in 1979, when Redstone was nearly killed in a fire at a Boston hotel, surviving third-degree burns over much of his body by hanging from a window ledge until he was rescued.
Less than a decade later, he took on considerable debt to acquire Viacom. In 1994, he added Paramount to his portfolio.
In his later years, Redstone found himself embroiled in a number of controversies as he fought to retain control of his empire. In 2006, his son Brent sued him for $1 billion, and he clashed with his daughter Shari over control of Viacom and CBS.
In 2016, it emerged that he had reportedly given a former girlfriend millions in cash and gifts. In 2019, he settled a legal dispute with another former girlfriend who claimed Redstone’s mental faculties were dimming.