Too soon: Sumner Redstone was a complete bastard

... and that's his legacy.

‘Le secret des grandes fortunes sans cause apparente est un crime oublié, parce qu’il a été proprement fait.’ — Honoré de Balzac

It’s usually boiled down to ‘behind every great fortune there is a crime’ but what Balzac actually said — in my rough translation of the original — was: “The secret of a great success which you find unaccountable is a crime that has never been found out because it was properly executed.”

Those last two words perfectly sum up Sumner Redstone’s crimes — his misdeeds were ‘properly executed’ and done within the thin veneer of legality. The billionaire media baron who died today was found out plenty but his obituaries write him up as a captain of industry, not the ruthless pirate bastard that he really was.

Show ideas were stolen from junior staff — Jersey Shore and My Super Sweet 16 among them— and turned into huge franchises with no IP owned by the originators, writers were blacklisted for simply signing a Writers’ Guild of America card, animators were exploited relentlessly to keep feeding the demands of 10-year-olds, casualisation was pursued viciously to ensure that most workers were freelance and so mostly went without health protection and other benefits. That is just a shortlist of Sumner’s crimes. Sumner was a man who thought having an iPad that could only send one of three messages ‘yes’, ‘no’ and ‘fuck you’ was an amusing anecdote.


He was sued by his own son — and screwed him over — and spent years estranged from his daughter. His billions were built on using his saying ‘content is king’ while ensuring that those who made content, whether as writers, on-camera performers, or crew on shows were undervalued, underpaid and underrated. Sumner’s ‘great crimes’ were myriad and varied.

The media obits have already bent down and kissed the ring so far that it’s like they’re tunneling to a mythical city built from a dead’s man’s faecal matter. The Hollywood Reporter calls him a ‘tenacious mogul’ and Variety says he was a 'towering media mogul’ (he was 5” 9). Even in death, Redstone is able to call the shots; the Hollywood press bending the knee to him even as he finally loses control of his empire for good.

They say the good die young. Sumner Redstone was 97. In his last interview, pressed about succession, Redstone said, "I will not discuss succession. You know why? I'm not going to die." Death refused Sumner’s acquisition offer.