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US media mogul Redstone dies aged 97

US media titan and former ViacomCBS chairman Sumner Redstone died on Tuesday at the age of 97.

Sumner Redstone pictured in 2001 (photo: John Mathew Smith via CC)

National Amusements, the Redstone family’s private holding company that holds ownership of ViacomCBS, today confirmed Redstone’s death.

Redstone took his first steps in the entertainment and media industry at his father’s drive-in theatre, and slowly built up a media empire that included Viacom, Paramount Pictures and CBS Corp.

During his time at the height of the US and global content sector, Redstone acquired some of the best-known holdings in the industry, including CBS, Paramount Pictures, MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, BET and Showtime.

The Boston native was said to hold a strong rule over his businesses and was embroiled in a number of long-running legal battles with business associates over the control of his assets until his death.

Redstone served as chairman of CBS and Viacom until February 2016. He was chairman emeritus of ViacomCBS and chairman-CEO of National Amusements until his death. His daughter, Shari Redstone, has served as ViacomCBS chairman since August 2019.

His assets will now be taken over by his remaining family members, who will manage his controlling stake in ViacomCBS.

Redstone reached the height of his powers in the 1980s and 90s, with a number of large-scale corporate acquisitions that consolidated his media empire. In 1987, Redstone acquired Viacom for US$3bn, followed by the acquisition of Paramount Pictures in 1993 for US$10bn. He bought CBS in 1999.

When the content industry started to digitalise, he initiated a copyright infringement war against YouTube, upon noticing clips and pirated versions of Viacom content appearing on the platform. The years-long legal battle pushed YouTube to make concessions and amend its copyright policies.

Commenting on Redstone’s death, Bob Bakish, president and CEO of ViacomCBS, said: “Sumner Redstone was a brilliant visionary, operator and dealmaker, who single-handedly transformed a family-owned drive-in theatre company into a global media portfolio.

“He was a force of nature and fierce competitor who leaves behind a profound legacy in both business and philanthropy. ViacomCBS will remember Sumner for his unparalleled passion to win, his endless intellectual curiosity and his complete dedication to the company. We extend our deepest sympathies to the Redstone family today.”

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