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The King of Content

The remarkable story of Sumner Redstone, his family legacy, and the battles for all he controls.

Sumner Murray Redstone, the brilliant, ruthless “mad genius” of media who lived by the credo “content is king,” leveraged his father’s chain of drive-in movie theaters into one of the world’s greatest media empires through a series of audacious takeovers designed to ensure his permanent control. Through this meteoric rise, he made his share of enemies, and feuded with nearly every member of his family.

In The King of Content, Keach Hagey deconstructs Redstone’s rise from Boston’s West End, through Harvard Law School, to the highest echelons of American business. Today, the ninety-five-year-old mogul’s life has become a tabloid soap opera, the center of acrimonious legal battles throughout his vast holdings, including Paramount Pictures and two of the largest public media companies, Viacom and CBS. At the heart of these dueling lawsuits is Redstone’s tumultuous love life and complicated relationship with his children. Today, his daughter, Shari, has emerged as his de facto successor, but only after ousting his closest confidant in a fierce power struggle.

Yet, Redstone’s assets face an existential threat that goes beyond his family, disgruntled ex-girlfriends, or even the management of his companies: the changing nature of media consumption. As more and more people cut their cable cords, CBS, with its focus on sports and broadcast TV, has held steady, while Viacom, with its once-great cable channels like MTV and Nickelodeon, has suffered a precipitous fall. As their rivals merge, the question is whether Shari’s push to undo her father’s last big strategic maneuver and recombine CBS and Viacom will be enough to shore up their future.