Sumner Redstone, a media titan and billionaire, died on Tuesday.
At his peak, Redstone’s sprawling empire included CBS and Viacom (which includes VH1) corporations that were the parents of a host of subsidiaries ranging from Paramount Pictures and MTV, Comedy Central and Spike TV.
Sumner’s daughter Shari Redstone said in a statement on Wednesday.
“My father led an extraordinary life that not only shaped entertainment as we know it today, but created an incredible family legacy,.
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’s final years, however, descended into controversy and legal battles, including court proceedings in which a former girlfriend described the media baron as a “living ghost” obsessed with daily sex, and dueling lawsuits over his fortune built around proving his mental incompetence.
According to CNN,
In the wake of those struggles, Shari Redstone eventually emerged with control, and pushed for a merger that would reunite CBS — rocked by the sexual misconduct allegations that led to the departure of CEO Leslie Moonves — and Viacom. Such a combination would undo her father’s impulsive decision to split the two companies in 2006.
The uncertainty regarding the media assets that Redstone built owe a good deal to the tumult that has surrounded him, and his loss of the once iron grip he held over his properties as he publicly descended in his later years.The stakes included Redstone’s fortune — which Forbes magazine put at $4.6 billion on its most recent list — as well as the disposition of his media empire.
The extended battle over the mogul’s holdings messily spilled into court. Redstone’s ex-girlfriend, Manuela Herzer, sought to prove he was incompetent — and under undue influence from Shari Redstone — when he kicked her out of his mansion and revoked her authority to make healthcare decisions for him. Those lawsuits were settled in January 2019. A judge threw out the suit after watching a videotaped deposition of Redstone, who struggled to answer questions but convinced the judge of his competence in part by spewing curses when the ex-girlfriend’s name was raised.
In a 2019 New York profile of Shari, Dick Parsons, the former CEO of Time Warner, compared her to her father by saying,
“Sumner didn’t care about other people’s feelings as far as I could tell. Sumner was very bright, very focused — Sumner could even be ruthless. And Shari has some of those qualities.”
In a famous and telling moment in his life, Redstone survived a 1979 Boston hotel fire by hanging from the ledge of his hotel-room window. It left his hand and legs seriously burned and required multiple surgeries, but it was frequently used as a sign of the mogul’s grit.
As he got older, Redstone dismissed talk of slowing down or ceding any of his responsibilities. He said in a 2009 interview, at the age of 85,
“I have no intention of ever retiring, or of dying.”