• Redstone started in business by acquiring theaters and nightclubs
  • Redstone received a law degree from Harvard
  • Redstone's fortune was estimated at $3.9 billion

Billionaire and controversial media mogul Sumner Redstone died at the age of 97 on Tuesday.

Redstone took his family’s drive-in theater business and eventually developed it into a huge media empire that included both the CBS television network and Viacom.

Those two entities have since merged to form ViacomCBS Inc. (VIAC).

National Amusements, a private holding company that owns approximately 79.4% of the Class A common stock of ViacomCBS, said in a press release that Redstone “played a critical role in shaping the landscape of the modern media and entertainment industry,” and turned ViacomCBS into a “prominent, international and industry-leading conglomerates in the media industry.”

Born in Boston in 1923, Redstone started in business by acquiring theaters and nightclubs and eventually formed the Northeast Theater Corp., later renamed National Amusements.

Redstone also received a degree from Harvard University School of Law in 1947 and later became a partner at the Washington D.C.-based law firm of Ford, Bergson, Adams, Borkland & Redstone.

By March 1987, he bought controlling interest in Viacom, eventually becoming its CEO and chairman.

At Viacom, he “quickly oversaw a series of acquisitions that would make the company one of the top players in modern media, including the high-profile acquisitions of Paramount Pictures, Blockbuster Entertainment, DreamWorks SKG and CBS.”

Redstone served as chairman of both Viacom and CBS until 2016, when he became chairman emeritus at each company. CBS and Viacom merged in December 2019, becoming ViacomCBS.

In November 2019, his net worth was estimated at $3.9 billion, CNBC reported.

“My father led an extraordinary life that not only shaped entertainment as we know it today, but created an incredible family legacy,” said Sumner’s daughter, Shari Redstone, now chair of ViacomCBS. “Through it all, we shared a great love for one another and he was a wonderful father, grandfather and great-grandfather. I am so proud to be his daughter and I will miss him always.”

“Sumner Redstone was a brilliant visionary, operator and dealmaker, who single-handedly transformed a family-owned drive-in theater company into a global media portfolio,” ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish said. “He was a force of nature and fierce competitor, who leaves behind a profound legacy in both business and philanthropy.”