Sumner Redstone Uncensored: Murdoch Divorce, Brad Pitt's Exit, Succession Plans
The combative 90-year-old mogul sits down with THR at his home and expounds on whether CBS should buy Sony's studio, why Rupert Murdoch was right to divorce Wendi Deng, whether he's concerned about Pitt's departure for New Regency and why he hasn't named a successor: "I'm not gonna die."
Do you have any regrets in life?
I regret that I won't live forever. Although I'd like to.
Are you close with your grandkids?
Very. Brandon [Shari's son] comes here all the time. And Tyler and Kimberlee call all the time. I'm very close to my grandchildren.
You had public trouble with both Shari and your son Brent.
That's your comment. People always say that.
Brad Pitt's Plan B company, which made World War Z for Paramount, is leaving for New Regency. Does that concern you?
Well, people have a right to go where they want. But I think Paramount is the best studio in the world. And Brad [Grey] is the best studio leader in the world, in my opinion. I hired him!
Is it true David Geffen encouraged you to hire Grey and then encouraged you to un-hire him?
I had no discussions that I recall with David Geffen. I don't need anyone's advice, like David's, about hiring Brad. Brad is great. He was great with [management company Brillstein-Grey]. But he [might make] less money running the studio. He wanted to be a studio head.
So, when there's studio politics, like the fact that Plan B didn't make 12 Years a Slave for Paramount and the film is now a leading Oscar contender, do you care?
Of course I care. I care about everything that affects the studio or any part of Viacom/CBS. Anyone is entitled to go where they want. A lot of people favor Paramount. Those who do are the ones who are right.
Are you sorry about losing Marvel, which left after Disney acquired the studio in 2009?
No, I'm not sorry about that. Things come and go. We can live without Marvel or anybody else. As long as we have great leaders. And we have great leaders.
What about DreamWorks Animation? It left its distribution deal at Paramount in 2012 and now releases its films through Fox.
Well, we're in the animation business now. [Paramount announced plans to make its own animated films in 2011; the first release will be a SpongeBob SquarePants movie in 2015.]
Yes. But it's a very crowded business.
Well, I think we should have an animation studio, and we do.
Do you follow industry news like the Murdochs' U.K. phone-hacking scandal?
Well, I read about it. But I keep my mouth shut.
He is equally harassed about succession, even though he's got an abundance of kids.
Well, he just lost Wendi, as you know. [Murdoch split from his wife in 2013.] He was right to do it, in my opinion.
I'm not commenting on that.
Saying that was very intriguing.
Well, that's my opinion. But I could be wrong, I could be right. My opinion doesn't count.
You take a pretty dim view of the newspaper investments Murdoch has made.
I believe in TV and movies. He believes in ink. And I don't believe in ink. It's not gonna last! The Internet will take over.
Do you have a proudest moment?
I'm proud about the fact that I was born in a tenement without a nickel and now I control two great companies. I'm not arrogant about it, but I do feel pride in having come from nowhere to where I am today.
A FEW OF SUMNER'S FAVORITE THINGS
Favorite city: L.A. I also like Hong Kong, Paris and Beijing. I met with several officials of Beijing, including the former president of China and his son. As a result of my activities in China, the only channels that could be seen in China [once] were Nickelodeon and MTV. We had the only dedicated channel in China called MTV China.
Favorite hotel: The Carlyle in New York City.
Favorite restaurant: Dan Tana's in West Hollywood.
Favorite sports team: The Red Sox. They won the World Series [in 2013]. Actually they won five games. They had one stolen from them by the umpire. … He was afraid Boston fans would kill him.
Favorite books: The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy's War and Peace. I'm an avid reader, and I love books in Greek and Latin.
Most valuable possession: My home. But I don't possess things, I enjoy them.
Best room in my house: My fish room because it relaxes me and the fish mesmerize me. I have the largest private collection of saltwater fish in the country.
Last song I sang: Any song by Tony Bennett.
Most trusted person: I trust in many people, but the one I trust the most is myself.