Sumner Redstone, Billionaire Media Tycoon and Former Chairman of CBS, Viacom, Dead at 97

Media magnate and ViacomCBS chairman Sumner Redstone passed away on Tuesday, the company announced. In his long career in the communications business, Redstone was the CEO of National Amusements and the controlling shareholder of ViacomCBS. He reportedly died at his home in Los, Angeles, California on Tuesday, at the age of 97.

Redstone's passing was confirmed by close family members, including his daughter, Shari Redstone. So far, his cause of death has not been revealed, and tributes have focused on his legacy in the media industry and his impact on the current state of entertainment and news broadcasts. Redstone built up a massive empire beginning with his father's movie theater chain, Northeast Theater Corporation. Over the decades, it became a force impacting every aspect of American life.

"My father led an extraordinary life that not only shaped entertainment as we know it today but created an incredible family legacy," Shari said. "Through it all, 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 was born in 1923 in Boston, Massachusetts. After completing his studies at Harvard College, he served as a 1st lieutenant in the United States Army during World War II. He decoded messages with the Signals Intelligence Service, and then attended law school upon returning to the U.S. After a brief career in Washington, D.C., he joined his father's business in 1954.

Redstone took over as the CEO of National Amusements in 1967. He is credited with pioneering various revolutions within the industry and establishing some best practices still used to this day. He famously coined the phrase "content is king," believing his company could not survive simply by distributing media and need to produce its own content as well.


Redstone invested in movie studios during those years and sold those stocks for a massive profit in the early 1980s. Meanwhile, he pursued a takeover of Viacom — through which he got control of MTV, Nickelodeon, Showtime Networks and The Movie Channel — and Paramount Pictures. Finally, under Redstone's leadership, Viacom reunited with CBS in 2000, bringing all of their shared powerhouse brands together for a few years before they split again in 2006.

Redstone is remembered fondly by friends, family, colleagues and veterans. As news of his passing has spread, so have some of his inspirational quotes about life and business. The ViacomCBS press release on his passing recalls that he once said: "Life should not be a passive exercise... If we disregard its opportunities, then we have denied not only ourselves but all those who could have been touched by our efforts."