HeroVet: Sumner Redstone, Media Kingpin

Sumner Redstone

One of America’s greatest media moguls has been known to say “content is king,” but we also recognize him for the unwavering fighting spirit of an Army veteran who has helped give millions to charities and valuable causes.

Sumner Redstone was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1923. From humble beginnings, he transformed his family-owned movie theater business, National Amusements, Inc., into a media empire that spans industries and the world.

With a mix of perseverance and savvy, Redstone turned Viacom into one of the world’s largest entertainment media companies, a leader in the production, promotion, and distribution of entertainment, news, sports, and music. And after a dramatic saga over control of the empire finally seems to have been resolved this month, Redstone leaves behind a legacy of success that no one can dispute.

During the Second World War, Redstone served in the Military Intelligence Division. While an undergraduate at Harvard, he was selected by Japanese history professor Edwin Reischauer to join a special intelligence group whose mission was to break Japan’s high-level military and diplomatic codes. In recognition of his service, First Lieutenant Redstone received two commendations and the Army Commendation Medal.

“The War affected me greatly, it was one of the most exciting experiences of my life,” Redstone said in an interview with the Archive of American Television. “It was a very gratifying mission because the Japanese never thought this code could be broken.”

He also overcame adversity in civilian life. In 1979, Redstone suffered severe burns in a fire at the Copley Plaza Hotel, in Boston. He survived after thirty hours of extensive surgery. This story is a reflection of Redstone’s strong determination and will to live that has carried over into his professional life.

Redstone’s impact on media today ranges far and wide. He remains the majority owner and Chairman of the Board of the National Amusements, while he and several others from the Redstone family are majority owners of CBS Corp. and Viacom, both of which once had Redstone as its executive chairman. According to Forbes, he is worth over $5 billion dollars.

Viacom is best known as the parent company of Viacom Media Networks, BET Networks, and the film studio Paramount Pictures.  

Tom Cruise (left), a longtime supporter of the Motion Picture & Television Fund (MPTF), joins Chairman of the MPTF Foundation, Jeffrey Katzenberg (right), and Sumner Redstone (center) as he grants a $20 Million gift from the Sumner M. Redstone Charitable Foundation to the MPTF Campaign at (Photo: PRNewsFoto/MPTF)
Tom Cruise (left), a longtime supporter of the
Motion Picture & Television Fund (MPTF),
joins Chairman of the MPTF Foundation,
Jeffrey Katzenberg (right), and Sumner
Redstone (center) as he grants a $20 Million
gift from the Sumner M. Redstone
Charitable Foundation to the MPTF
Campaign at (Photo: PRNewsFoto/MPTF)

Through his countless efforts, Redstone has given a great deal to many civic and community affairs endeavors. Through the Sumner M. Redstone Charitable Foundation and personal donations, he has contributed over $216 million to charities around the world.

Charitable Commitment

He has also supported FasterCures/The Center for Accelerating Medical Solutions, the Cedars-Sinai Prostate Cancer Center, and Massachusetts General Hospital; the Global Poverty Project towards eradicating polio and funded the establishment of the Cambodian Children’s Fund child rescue center.

Redstone also supports education, arts and entertainment institutions and organizations, including the USC Keck School of Medicine, Boston Latin School, Motion Picture & Television Fund, Museum of the Moving Image, Harvard University and Harvard Law School.

Redstone is currently a member of the Board of Overseers of the Dana-Faber Cancer Institute; honorary chairman of the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation; the Board of Overseers of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the executive board of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston. He has also served as chairman of the Jimmy Fund, known as the Children’s Cancer Research Foundation, and was a member of the Corporation of the New England Medical Center.

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