A titan of modern media, Viacom Chair-man Sumner Redstone reveals how he battled his way to become the head of one of the world's great media empires, and the richest man in entertainment.
In one of the most fascinating business autobiographies of this or any other year, Sumner Redstone tells the unvarnished story of how he overcame every obstacle to build a vast media and entertainment engine that includes Paramount Pictures, MTV, Nickelodeon, Blockbuster, Simon & Schuster, and now CBS. A larger-than-life figure in the grand tradition of the Hearsts, Paleys, and Pulitzers, and voted in a recent survey of 600 corporate executives as the number-one most inspiring CEO, this is the man who can truly say, "I am Viacom."
A Passion to Win gives a riveting look behind the scenes at the highly charged negotiations that won Redstone both Viacom and Paramount. The book reveals the intense business calculations and strong emotions of Redstone's head-to-head confrontations with such adversaries as Barry Diller and H. Wayne Huizenga. A Passion to Win takes the reader along on the financial roller-coaster ride that began when Blockbuster went into the tank, risking Redstone's fortune and life's work. By the end of that ride, Redstone had righted his company and revolutionized the video industry. In a world of high-visibility corporate battles, Redstone pulls no punches. This is the man who faced down a pack of thugs when they threatened producer Bob Evans during the filming of The Cotton Club. And this is a book that shows the reader what it takes to win.
Behind it all is the same iron will that helped Redstone to survive a deadly fire at Boston's Copley Plaza Hotel by clinging with one hand to a third-story ledge before being rescued -- with burns so severe over nearly half his body that doctors feared he would die.
Born in a Boston tenement, he graduated first in his class at Boston Latin, went through Harvard in three years, was chosen for a special cryptography unit in the U.S. Army whose assignment was to crack Japanese codes during World War II, then, after Harvard Law School, successfully pleaded cases before the U.S. Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court -- all of this before embarking on his astounding business career.
Never before has Sumner Redstone revealed himself so candidly, and now, with the assistance of writer Peter Knobler (who co-wrote attorney Daniel Petrocelli's bestseller Triumph of Justice, about the O.J. Simpson civil suit), he has produced an inspirational life story that will command major attention.
Redstone made his first big splash in the media world at the age of 63 when, after a hotly contested battle against the management of Viacom, he acquired the company, which owns MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon and Showtime/the Movie Channel (as well as this book's publisher, Simon & Schuster). The 1987 purchase of Viacom and Redstone's prolonged ultimately successful struggle with Barry Diller over the acquisition of Paramount are the two pillars around which Redstone has constructed his autobiography. While rich in detail about his business dealings, it gives only scant attention to his private life (in any case, Redstone readily acknowledges, "Viacom is my life"). Redstone's obsession to build the world's largest software-driven media company had harsh consequences for a number of less-powerful executives. While it was predictable that Redstone would fire an executive like the "volcanic" (one of the milder terms he uses to describe the former Simon & Schuster chairman) Dick Snyder, it was more surprising when he axed Frank Biondi, who had helped him build Viacom. More to Redstone's liking is Mel Karmazin, who became Viacom's COO after the company acquired CBS in a friendly takeover in 1999. Under his leadership, Viacom has become one of the most powerful media conglomerates in the world. While he claims he has no use for the limelight, Redstone also seems to feel he hasn't received enough credit for his accomplishments. Anyone interested in learning about the making of Viacom will enjoy this insider's view from the man who had the passion to make it happen. (June 8) Forecast: In addition to review attention, this engaging memoir should attract news and feature coverage. A five-city author tour will likely help and boost sales for a book you can bet the entire conglomerate is fully behind. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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Simon & Schuster
June 05, 2001
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Excerpt from A Passion to Win by Sumner Redstone
I don't splurge on much in my life. My material desires have always been minimal. When I'm in Boston I live in the same suburban home I moved into forty years ago. For sixty years I bought suits off the rack (some would say not wisely). But I like a nice hotel. I feel I've worked hard and should be able to enjoy good food and stay at a nice place. If it's comfortable and the service is good, that's enough for me. I don't have to own it.
I was perfectly happy checking into Boston's Copley Plaza. As president of National Amusements, Inc., owner of a small chain of movie theaters, mainly drive-ins, I was there for a party to honor a branch manager of Warner Bros. Pictures. I was going to New York the next day. It was 1979 and we were in the planning stages of opening the Sunrise Multiplex, our first indoor operation in the New York metropolitan area, and between construction, booking and breaking into a new market, there was a lot of work to be done. The party at the hotel was going to run late. I would stay the night, get up early and be on my way.
I went to sleep thinking about work. It was well after midnight when I woke up and smelled smoke.
I don't recall ever being taught what to do when faced with smoke and fire in a hotel, or anywhere else for that matter. It's not something you think about when you check in. I smelled smoke and made the classic mistake; I opened the door. The branch manager, who was staying in the next room, made a bigger mistake. He opened his door wide and stepped into the hotel corridor. He died.