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Media Mogul Sumner Redstone Passes Away At 97

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The media mogul and Billionaire Sumner Redstone passed away on Tuesday at the age of 97, his family's holding company National Amusements said in a statement on Wednesday.

He was Chairman Emeritus of ViacomCBS and chief executive officer of National Amusements.

"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," Bob Bakish, President and CEO of ViacomCBS, said.

Redstone reportedly had been in close contact over the past few years with his daughter, ViacomCBS chairman Shari Redstone, and others in his family, following years of public battles with his family members.

His final years were affected by scandals at his companies and allegations in his personal life. A former girlfriend alleged in a 2015 lawsuit that Redstone had lost his mental capacity and that others were manipulating him for personal gain.

In 2016, U.S. court reportedly dismissed the lawsuit after the billionaire asserted in videotaped testimony that he didn't want the former girlfriend to play any role in his life.

Redstone was born in Boston, Massachusetts on May 27, 1923 to Belle Ostrovsky and Max Rothstein. His father, who later changed his name to Michael Redstone, supported his family by peddling linoleum from the back of a truck. Michael Redstone bought a drive-in movie theater in Valley Stream, Long Island.

Michael Redstone went on to acquire other theaters and nightclubs and create the Northeast Theater Corporation, later renamed National Amusements.

Redstone was selected to serve on an elite U.S. Army intelligence team responsible for breaking Japanese military and diplomatic codes during World War II due to his fluency in Japanese, Latin, French and German.

After completing his military service, Redstone received an L.L.B. from Harvard University School of Law in 1947 and began his career as a Law Secretary with the United States Court of Appeals and then as Special Assistant to the U.S. Attorney General.

In 1954, Redstone joined National Amusements and embarked on his celebrated, decades-long career in the entertainment industry.

Redstone was executive chairman of the Viacom board for almost 30 years, following National Amusements' acquisition of a controlling stake in Viacom in 1987. He was also chief executive officer of Viacom from 1996 until 2005, during which time Viacom merged with CBS in 2000.

Upon the separation of the two companies in December 2005, Redstone served as Executive Chairman of the Boards of CBS and Viacom. In February 2016, Redstone assumed the role of Chairman Emeritus for both companies.

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