• The media magnate Sumner Redstone, who forged an empire of entertainment companies encompassing CBS, Viacom, and Paramount Pictures, died Tuesday at the age of 97.
  • Redstone built his media empire on the simple but prescient premise that “content is king,” as he liked to say, and would prove more valuable than owning distribution channels like movie theaters or cable operators.
  • His legacy business, ViacomCBS, is worth $16 billion.
  • Redstone is survived by his son, Brent Redstone, and daughter, Shari Redstone, who is the steward of much of his media empire.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Sumner Redstone, who forged an empire of entertainment companies encompassing CBS, Viacom, and Paramount Pictures, died Tuesday at the age of 97.

His death was announced in a statement by National Amusements, which revealed few details. Variety reported that Redstone died in his Los Angeles home.

Redstone built his media empire on the simple but prescient premise that “content is king,” as he liked to say, and would prove more valuable than owning distribution channels like movie theaters or cable operators.

Based on that belief, he transformed his father’s small theater chain, National Amusements, into a launchpad for investing in and acquiring movie studios and TV networks.

Redstone, who was known to be ruthless in his pursuit, took control in the 1980s of Viacom, which owned some of the most popular cable networks of the time, including MTV and Nickelodeon. He won control of Paramount Pictures in the 1990s in a fierce bidding war against his rival media moguls Barry Diller and John Malone. And he later acquired Viacom’s former parent company, the broadcast giant CBS.

Redstone was executive chairman of CBS and Viacom until 2016, and he was chairman emeritus after that.

The two companies merged in 2019 and are now worth $16.4 billion. ViacomCBS includes the broadcaster CBS; the premium-TV network Showtime; the cable channels, MTV, VH1, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, and BET; the movie studio Paramount Pictures; and the publisher Simon & Schuster.

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Redstone, born in Boston, began his career in law after graduating from Harvard Law School in 1947. He joined National Amusements in the 1950s and became CEO in 1967.

The Wall Street Journal reporter Keach Hagey’s 2018 book, “The King of Content: Sumner Redstone’s Battle for Viacom, CBS, and Everlasting Control of His Media Empire,” chronicled Redstone’s rise and apparent obsession with immortality. His later years were plagued by questions about his health and faculties.

Redstone is survived by his son, Brent Redstone, and daughter, Shari Redstone, who is the steward of much of the media empire.

Shari Redstone, the chair of the newly formed ViacomCBS, owns 20% of National Amusements, the holding company that controls ViacomCBS, and is one of seven trustees overseeing the other 80% voting stake that was controlled by Sumner.

“My father led an extraordinary life that not only shaped entertainment as we know it today but created an incredible family legacy,” she told Variety in a statement.