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Viacom and CBS Corp. controlling shareholder and executive chairman Sumner Redstone on Thursday afternoon unveiled an $18 million donation to the Boston University School of Law, his latest in a string of charitable gifts.
The money will help expand and improve the facilities of the law school, including the construction of a new building, to be called the Sumner M. Redstone, adjacent to its core building. It will house the majority of the school’s classrooms and contain facilities to support executive, professional and other education programs, according to BU.
Redstone told THR on Thursday that he has spent about $130 million on charities and good causes in recent years and doesn’t plan to stop there. “I don’t have any targets, but I will continue to make significant donations,” he told THR in a phone conversation from Boston where he was set to appear for an event to formally announce the gift. “I don’t see it as philantropy though, because it makes me happy.”
He also shared the news that he has started work on a second book following his 2001 release of his autobiography A Passion to Win. Details of the new book — from its contents to a potential publisher — are still in the early development stages and will be announced later.
Redstone also emphasized that despite his donations and book work, he doesn’t plan to stop his involvement in his companies’ affairs.
“I’m the executive chairman at Viacom and CBS and extremely happy with [Viacom CEO] Philippe [Dauman] and [CBS Corp. CEO] Les [Moonves],” Redstone told THR. “I continue to be very much involved … I love to work for Viacom and CBS.” Company observers have often discussed who would succeed the 89-year-old Redstone if he ever stepped down.
Asked about his health following questions about his physical state around the time of Viacom’s annual shareholder meeting earlier this year, Redstone said Thursday: “My health is fantastic. I feel better than when I was 20 years old. I walk, I run, I bike and swim every day…I have unlimited energy.”
Part of that energy has in recent years gone into charitable donations. The BU gift is particularly dear to Redstone given “I am from Boston and very, very close to Boston” and the close relationship he and people around him have to the law school, he said.
Redstone daughter Shari, the vice chairman of Viacom and CBS, and Viacom general counsel Mike Fricklas are alumni of the law school along with Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav and David E. Kelley. More broadly, BU counts such Hollywood industry insiders as Nina Tassler, Ted Harbert, Bonnie Hammer and Andy Cohen among its alumni.
“Boston University School of Law is one of the finest institutions of legal scholarship in the world and deserves a home that will enable it to continue to innovate and build on that legacy,” said Redstone. “As a former faculty member, native Bostonian, and the proud parent of a BU Law graduate, I could not be more pleased to provide this gift that will benefit generations of future students.”
Redstone told THR that in 1982, he became part of the faculty of the Boston University School of Law and created the first course in entertainment law. Redstone also pioneered the school’s curriculum for protecting intellectual property in the entertainment industry, “which continues to be one of the school’s strengths,” according to the law school.
Redstone’s continued relationship with BU also saw him receive an honorary doctor of laws in 1994. Plus, for more than 30 years, he has sponsored the Boston University Redstone Film Festival that features projects written and directed by graduate and undergraduate students from the BU College of Communication.
Said Boston University president Robert Brown: “Our long-deferred dream of transforming the School of Law campus can now begin with the groundbreaking for this new building.”
Through the Sumner Redstone Charitable Foundation and personal donations, Redstone has in recent years increased his donations to share his wealth.
Among other causes, the media pioneer has donated $2.1 million to the Global Poverty Project focused on eradicating polio and given money to the Cambodian Children’s Fund, which he called two of his favorite causes. He has also donated money to support research and patient care advancements in the fields of cancer, burn recovery and mental health, as well as on such programs as A Place Called Home, The Child Rescue Association of North America, Autism Speaks, FasterCures/The Center for Accelerating Medical Solutions, Boston Latin School and Harvard University and Harvard Law School.
He has also supported such LA-based organizations as Friendly House and the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center at Cedars Sinai.
Redstone on Thursday also reiterated that he is “very close” to Tom Cruise and is looking forward to more “Mission: Impossible” movies. “We have dinner occassionally when he’s in town,” Redstone said.
Does he have any advice for Cruise on the relationship front after the separation from Katie Holmes? “I think he knows all about that,” Redstone said. “And I certainly don’t have to tell him how to make a movie.”
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