Redstone is clearly a tenacious presence in the entertainment business and has built an incredible empire. This man took no shortcuts getting to the top of the mountain. There are some great lessons in this book. However, I was incredibly put off by his litigious nature. Redstone has filed numerous lawsuits during his professional career, and has threatened many more. Frankly, I got tired of reading about all of the "wrongs" that kept cropping up in his business and personal life. It seems that he is somewhat unfulfilled if he doesn't have a lawsuit against somebody going on. He claims that he only sues as a last resort. Please. As many as he has done it is clearly a tool of primary choice. One must presume Redstone never wronged anyone else. His enormous ego is also on prominent display in the book. You would expect that someone in his position would have a healthy dose and Redstone does not disappoint.
Another point of contention is his constant harping of his character and credibility. He claims that they are the bedrock of his existence. OK, what was he doing in Europe photographed with a young woman-although he claims innocence his wife left him after 52 years of marriage. He may have been innocent but his wife had apparently seen enough. Is this character and credibility? His reliance on his credibility is highly selective-Beavis and Butthead are the epitome of character and credibilty?
Also, after he purchased CBS his top 2 lieutinants were being squeezed out of positions. These gentleman were significant players in his building of Viacom and he played dumb in claiming he didn't know they would lose their place after acquiring CBS(they brought it to his attention). Redstone stated that he would call off the deal if they wanted him to do it. PLEASE. We learn plenty about Redstone in the book to realize that nothing stops him from getting what HE wants. After the acquisition, they were gone and he made a great point of saying how rich he had made them.
If you are looking for an objective view of Redstone and his dealings, this is not it. If you are interested in getting in on the inside of some big deals, you may enjoy it. Just bring your weedwacker to cut through Redstone's self serving BS.
If one is asked to describe a blueprint for genocide, Hitler's "Mein Kampf" invariably comes to mind. Thus ever should Sumner Redstone's "A Passion to Win" be linked with the equally heinous crime of cultural genocide.
In this book, Mr. Redstone recalls the long road that led him from drive-in theater projectionist to media mogul. At every twist and turn, Mr. Redstone defeats "incomprehensible" odds to claw his way to the top of his "entertainment" empire. The capstone of this empire was his acquistion of Viacom, and with it, MTV.
Redstone describes with almost messianic fervor how he ignored advice to sell off the fledgling music channel. "I believed that MTV could be a cultural force in America" (page 116). "Young people 12 to 20 were going to become adults of 30 to 40...", "If we attracted them early, we could keep them forever." (page 117).
Well, attract them he did, and anyone who can sit through ten minutes of MTV "programming" can readily appreciate Mr. Redstone's "cultural messages". (Try searching "Shower Rangers" on you favorite browser some time. Thanks, Sumner!).
Even more sinister is the calculating way in which he targets the youngest viewers for his oily propaganda. "I felt much the same way about Nickelodeon and the possibilities in creating a children's brand." (page 117). From cradle to grave, Uncle Sumner had a direct conduit to America's, and then the world's, most impressionable viewers.
But Mr. Redstone does not live in a vacuum. He has children and grandchildren of his own. They grew up with the MTV generation too (Can't you just see Grampa Sumner settling down with the grandbabies to watch some quality rap videos?). Mr. Redstone, however, believes that while "multiculturalism" and "diversity" are just the ticket for the gentiles, his family would attend private schools in Israel.
Towards the closing pages of this book, Mr. Redstone also mentions his wife of 50+ years, as he is in the process of divorcing her. "I took measures to see that she would have no control in the company". Heart warming, ain't it?
I highly recommend this book. As the old proverb goes, "Know thy enemy."
Wow! I'm the first to review this book here in over a year!
A Passion to Win was recommended to me by a fellow Viacom employee, though he's at Paramount and I have freelanced at MTV for the past four and a half years. I'm embarrassed to say that I previously knew nothing of Sumner Redstone or his behind-the-scene battles to turn Viacom into the world's top entertainment company. When confronted with the inevitable bureaucracy of performing my job duties, I just envisioned a nameless, faceless corporation that really only cared about the bottom line.
What a treat it was to spend the last day and a half seeing operations from the creator's perspective! I have a newfound respect for Mr. Viacom (or Mr. Redstone) and every other division that has invariably kept him awake at night as he set to reform it from the inside out. Quite an inspiring and optimistic tome from someone who could easily have concentrated on the negatives of his own triumphant journey.
I was surprised with Redstone's candor in recounting his business deals, including the personalities of the players involved. The character "types" he has dealt with paralleled my own encounters with businessmen over the years. It was comforting to know that our dealings were not so dissimilar, only in the scope of what was being negotiated.
I'm sure Sumner has his share of detractors, but I was really impressed with his story. I found myself cheering (though not audibly) when he closed a significant business deal. The uncomplicated prose actually helped me through most of the legal situations, as that's never been an area of interest for me.
Suffice it to say that I think this book holds up exceedingly well, giving great insight into one of the top business minds currently at play on the American (even global) corporate landscape. A complete recommendation.
This is a lightweight tome about an unusual man.
Like him or loathe him, Sumner Redstone is a character and in this book what you read is about Sumner Redstone, a man of steel.
There is much to be admired about Mr. Redstone but not his writing skills. This unabashed self-promoting autobiography is not a bad read but it really does not get to the essence of the man and his business dealings.
One is reminded of Shakespeare's withering description "but Caesar is an honourable man" which served to cast doubt on the character of Caesar. I am not saying that there is anything bad with Sumner Redstone but the reader is left with the impression of our hero marching into battle at the head of a small, timid, lacking in confidence army. Granted he is a survivor and granted that he has got good business acumen but where, as they say, is the beef?
This is a story of Sumner first and foremost, a larger than life character while the other figures he interacts with are merely shadows in comparison.
Lest anyone get me wrong I have the utmost respect for this gentleman and believe that you do not get to run one of the biggest media corporations in the world by mere accident. But this book is not a fitting testament to the man. The world does not need the soft focus version of Sumner Redstone. What we do need is a no holds barred, warts and all unauthorised biography of the Viacom titan.
This is not the greates business book in the world. You can tell that by the fact that Blockbuster stores were required to sell it alongside their movie rentals before ultimately was taken from the shelves. Unlike a lot of the things you get from Blockbuster there are no late fees attached to this book. Says it all really.
Several other reviewers seem to have attached little (if any) importance to the fact that the information Redstone provides (especially the opinions) are from his perspective. They challenge the accuracy of his comments about various negotiations, lawsuits, personnel decisions, etc. No doubt he employs selective memory. No doubt he frequently bends the truth to suit what are often his self-serving purposes. No doubt in several instances he is flat-out wrong. So what? I rate this book so highly because it provides access to Redstone which would otherwise be denied, at least to me. No one can question the nature and extent of his achievements in business. No one can deny that he is among the most controversial of media empire CEOs. The person he himself describes is not someone I would wish to be closely associated with. I do not plan to invite him over for Sunday dinner (although he may well be delightful company in that situation) and I have not included him on my holiday greeting card mailing list. Again, so what? In his own words, he shares with me and other readers his "take" on his life and career thus far. We have his version of volatile relationships with others such as Barry Diller who also bears little resemblance to Mr. Rogers. Thank you, Mr. Redstone, for explaining why you think you have a passion to win; also, what you think the impact of that passion has had in your life.