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The King of Content

Sumner Redstone's Battle for Viacom, CBS, and Everlasting Control of His Media Empire

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About the Book

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

Sumner Murray Redstone (1923–2020), 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. Over the course of 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. The ninety-seven-year-old mogul’s life became a tabloid soap opera, the center of acrimonious legal battles throughout his vast holdings, which included Paramount Pictures and two of the largest public media companies, Viacom and CBS. At the heart of these lawsuits was Redstone’s tumultuous love life and complicated relationship with his children. Redstone’s daughter, Shari, has emerged as his de facto successor, but only after she ousted 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.

A biography and corporate whodunit filled with surprising details, The King of Content investigates Redstone’s impact on business and popular culture, as well as the family feuds, corporate battles, and questionable alliances that go back decades—all laid bare in this authoritative book.

About the Author

Keach Hagey

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Keach Hagey is a reporter at the Wall Street Journal, covering television and large media companies. Her team’s reporting on the power struggle at Viacom won a “Best in Business” award from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. Previously, she covered media for Politico, the National, CBSNews.com, and the Village Voice. She lives in Irvington, New York.


“The power struggles that have surrounded Viacom and CBS are like the background noise of the business news pages -- seemingly always there, yet somehow not rising to attention unless you’re closely listening for it. Yet it is an epic story that takes a book to examine, one filled with legal conflicts, boardroom battles, angry ex-girlfriends, family drama and a 95-year-old media mogul whose health, Hagey wrote in April in the Wall Street Journal, where she is a reporter, ‘has declined so significantly he cannot speak much beyond grunts.’ It also promises more than just the tabloid soap opera business story, but a look at how much media consumption and its industry is changing.” —Washington Post