Redstone rips Moonves' fight plan

Questions the decision to bring a bloody sport to CBS

BEVERLY HILLS -- That ringing in your ears, Les Moonves, was your chairman and a competitor taking you to task for your plan to bring extreme fighting to CBS.

"Les usually asks my opinion," Sumner Redstone said Wednesday when asked about the four mixed-martial arts fights that will begin airing soon on CBS. This time, the Viacom and CBS chairman said, Moonves did not.

Redstone said the deal, struck with Elite Xtreme Combat, probably was a mistake, not because CBS won't turn a profit from it but because it is not "socially responsible" to air the typically bloody bouts on free, broadcast TV.

"I'm a lover not a fighter," Redstone said. "I don't like the sport."

Redstone said he doesn't like to "intrude" on Moonves and added that, "Most of the time, he does the right thing."

But Ed Goren, president of Fox Sports, was more direct, telling an audience of 200 that he didn't pursue a relationship with ultimate fighting because, "We don't need money that badly."

The remarks were made during a panel discussion about the sports industry at the Milken Institute Global Conference.

Redstone, sensing the presence of reporters, then faced the audience and proclaimed: "I want to send a message. 'Les, I'm not criticizing you. Don't call me tonight.' "

Redstone, perhaps unknowingly, also second-guessed four Nobel Laureate economists at the conference who expressed doubt that the U.S. is in a recession.

"We're in a recession. We're in a bear market," Redstone said.

Tim Leiweke, president and CEO of AEG, acknowledged weakness in some segments of the live entertainment business, though not sports, which will attract eyeballs in any economic environment.

He did, though, express concern that U.S. retailers were reporting slower sales, which might encourage them to reduce advertising. "We are very reliant on the advertising dollar," he said.

The panelists also discussed whether Los Angeles might get an NFL team and seemed to agree that it couldn't happen in the next several years.

Casey Wasserman, chairman and CEO of Wasserman Media Group, predicted that the 50th Super Bowl, in 2015, will be played in Los Angeles, just as the first Super Bowl was, but that Los Angeles still won't have a team by then because it would cost $2 billion to bring one here and build it a stadium. Plus, NFL rules of ownership are overly onerous, making it difficult to raise that kind of money even if one were inclined to do so.

"It may take two teams to make the economics work," said Goren, recommending that Los Angeles get itself an AFC and an NFC team to share a new stadium.

When it was suggested that Redstone could buy a team himself and have $7 billion left over from his personal fortune, according to Forbes magazine, he first said the magazine lied about his net worth, then added: "I don't want to join an old boys club. I don't want to own a trophy."
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