Les Moonves Lies, Shari Pushes, Philippe Dauman Falls, Sumner Steals His Grandson’s Girlfriend, and Other Stories in Redstone’s New Book

As Paramount Global prepares to report quarterly earnings Thursday, with CEO Bob Bakish presiding and Shari Redstone happily ensconced as non-executive chair, a new book is bringing some interesting (and sometimes salacious) revelations about the company’s troubled journey.

Unscripted: The Epic Battle for a Media Empire and the Redstone Family Legacy, a tale of sex, lies, family drama and boardroom backstabbing, was released this week and is already one of Amazon’s top sellers. Co-author and The New York Times Colleagues James Stewart and Rachel Abrams gleefully expand on what’s already known about the epic dysfunction swirling around late patriarch Sumner Redstone. As their accounts emphasize, the company founder’s mercurial allegiances, sexual obsessions, and physical and mental deterioration wreaked havoc on the former Viacom and CBS corporations. Part salacious soap opera, part business book/legal chronicle, it charts Sumner’s downward spiral as well as the fall of Les Moonves, the media titan whose allies and enablers helped him to the last minute.

The public roasting of Harvey Weinstein and the resulting momentum of the #MeToo movement scrutinized Moonves and many others, empowering women to come forward. But the deluge of harassment allegations and worse from years past wasn’t, in the end, what brought Moonves down. Rather, it was her long-standing attempt to buy an actress’ silence with a job and a cover-up by lying to the board about it. If he was willing to do that, the directors wondered, what else could he be capable of? Despite such brazen behavior, which even left Moonves physically ill, he still walked away with a severance payment of nearly $120 million.

Among the most chilling moments: An LAPD police captain who worked for Moonves at CBS handed over a police report by one of Moonves’ alleged victims to company executives, who showed it to the former CEO. That stunning sequence was revealed in a settlement with the New York attorney general last year, but the book contains more details.

A geriatric Sumner Redstone tries to steal his grandson Brandon Korff’s dates, including one at the MTV Video Music Awards, which is also difficult — and unfortunate. This led Korff to hire matchmaker Patty Stanger to find her grandfather a partner. That match turned out to be Sidney Holland, who wound up with a combined $150 million of the mogul’s fortune before eventually being banished.

Holland and Herzer are dethroned when Shari Redstone, eminently sympathetic and reasonable in this telling, finally earns the trust and love of her hyper-critical father. But CBS’s board, which had listened to Sumner’s rants and rants for years, found it hard to convince him when he ascended so they missed the chance to listen to his business advice, which was usually quite sound. This included removing former Viacom CEO Philippe Daumann, whose lack of foresight was undermining the company; Reuniting Viacom and CBS when scale was needed; And investigating the allegations against Moonves goes beyond just asking him if anything happened. (He always maintained that there was nothing.)

Dauman, long Sumner’s surrogate son, was ousted after he began buying 49% of Paramount Pictures, the real jewel in the corporate crown. After two failed attempts, Viacom and CBS finally merged in 2019 at the end of the book’s narrative. The combination of companies was generally a positive one, with the relatively successful Buckish at the helm. Summer Redstone died in 2020 at the age of 97.

The book is set against the backdrop of all sorts of filed and threatened cases, which the authors mine for their best basic material. The first two-thirds of the book chronicle Sumner’s escapades, punctuated by birthday celebrations – 90, 91 and 92 – where the guest list and tone depended dramatically on his health and who was in his orbit at the moment. (“Needless to say, Dauman was not invited to Sumner’s 93rd birthday,” the author dryly reported.)

Corporate governance issues lurk. As Sumner Redstone’s dementia and disability set in, it took several years for him to shake off his rich annual salary as chairman of the board when he was unable to work. Around the 200-page mark, the patriarch disappears from the narrative and the corporate story really continues with a battle for control of the companies and the unraveling of Moonves.

Here’s a selection, courtesy of publisher Penguin Press:

Shari Redstone tried to fire Dauman after losing other missteps, including Comedy Central stars Jon Stewart, John Oliver and Stephen Colbert.:

“Anxious, Shari finally asked Duman to Pierre alone in his recently renovated apartment. He gave her a tour and ordered drinks and canapés before settling into a study overlooking Central Park. He was such a gracious host, she was unprepared for what followed. : “You and I both know you’re completely unfit to be CEO of Viacom,” Shari said, laying her cards on the table.

“I respectfully disagree,” Dauman replied. He realized she was asking him to step down as chief executive. Someday he would move, he told her, but now was not the time. The company was at an “inflection point” and needed continuity of leadership.

An intoxicated Moonves agonized over his decision to wrest control of the vote from the Redstones for The Next Morning with CBS board allies:

By now Moonves must have passed his third vodka of the evening. In his last post of the day, To [communications chief Gil] Schwartz at 10:36 p.m., he was all incoherent: “We’ve got to put their clowns to bed thinking beforehand that we’re going to do no harm and uncuff them. If they want to bring it up, be careful. we will destroy OLD SARA We’ve done nothing but party with you. Now we will kill his big scaru. They are all afraid. I’m going to resist hitting this public bull right now. And go after them now.”

Moonves’ aides were later incredulous that he pursued the case:

The directors would never have agreed to bring the case if they had known about Moonves’ hidden problems in the past. Now that they knew, there was collective disbelief that Moonves had allowed the case to go forward. What was he thinking? Various directors speculated, but what they managed to come up with was that her ability to deny must have been extraordinary.

Manager Marv Dower pressured Moonves to find work for Bobbi Phillips, an actress who said Moonves had assaulted her:

Shari and Kliger’s letter called for a more thorough investigation of Moonves, which apparently made Bobby Phillips’ ongoing silence all the more important. Since the previous December, when Dauer had first contacted him, almost all of their interactions had been initiated by Dauer. But now that Moonves has reached out to Dower, they suggest meeting again on Friday, July 13, at Arts Delicatessen in Studio City. During their lunch, Moonves reiterated that his sex with Phillips was consensual—”I was never a hunter, I was a player” is how he put it. But he again expressed remorse, saying he wants to make amends and is still looking for a part for Phillips.

“Well, it’s been eight months and you’ve had nothing,” Dower replied. “He’s very patient, and he wants things to happen.” He added, “He’s getting angry.” The following week Moonves called casting head Peter Golden to see if there was anything to shoot in Toronto, as there was an actress he wanted Golden to consider. At first Golden said no, but then he realized Blood and Treasure was being cast in Toronto and most of it was being shot in Montreal. “Who is the actress?” asked Golden Moonves. “Bobby Phillips,” answered Moonves, a name that, as far as Golden was concerned, came out of the blue. Moonves admitted to Golden that she’s facing the #MeToo situation. (Moonves said Golden “undertook that this was a woman who was potentially making a complaint,” though “I didn’t know for sure.”)

unscripted Hitting the bookshelves on Tuesday

! function(f, b, e, v, n, t, s) {
if (f.fbq) return;
n = f.fbq = function() {
n.callMethod ? n.callMethod.apply(n, arguments) : n.queue.push(arguments)
if (!f._fbq) f._fbq = n;
n.push = n;
n.loaded = !0;
n.version = ‘2.0’;
n.queue = [];
t = b.createElement(e);
t.async = !0;
t.src = v;
s = b.getElementsByTagName(e)[0];
s.parentNode.insertBefore(t, s)
}(window, document, ‘script’, ‘https://connect.facebook.net/en_US/fbevents.js’);
fbq(‘init’, ‘422369225140645’);
fbq(‘track’, ‘PageView’);

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *