Last Woman Standing

Belittled by Viacom and CBS executives and insulted by her own father, Shari Redstone now sits atop a $30 billion media empire.

Photo: Rob Latour/Shutterstock
Photo: Rob Latour/Shutterstock
Photo: Rob Latour/Shutterstock

In February 2017, Shari Redstone, the 62-year-old billionaire heiress and controlling shareholder of CBS and Viacom, with a honking Boston accent and a fondness for the bouffant blowout, was at the 50-yard line at Houston’s NRG Stadium to watch her beloved Patriots play in the Super Bowl. That was when CBS board member Charles Gifford, who towered over the five-foot-two Redstone, his own board’s vice-chair, grabbed her by the face to command her attention and said, “We need to talk, young lady.”

She froze. Her father, Sumner Redstone, had amassed an empire of media companies like CBS, which encompassed Showtime and Simon & Schuster, and Viacom, whose cable channels (MTV, Nickelodeon, VH1) and movie studio, Paramount, had seen better days, its stock price plummeting as mismanagement and cord-cutting ate into profits. For months, she had been arguing that combining the companies would keep them competitive; CBS board members, including Gifford and CEO Les Moonves, riding high on having the No. 1 broadcast network, had resisted.

Making a scene, Redstone worried, could jeopardize her already fragile relationship with CBS’s board, which was loyal to Moonves and had watched her replace Viacom’s chief executive and several board members. “There was a concern that no matter how gingerly she approached the issue, the CBS side would interpret it as part of a power play,” said someone who gave her advice about it at the time.

Over the years, as her father’s on-again, off-again heir apparent, Redstone had made not a few enemies in the family businesses. She had been described by journalists channeling anonymous executives as “pushy and overly keen for power,” someone who “rubs everyone the wrong way” and “developed something of a reputation for not mastering the details.” Her father went from anointing her his successor in 2002 to faxing a reporter to say she’d made no contribution. Finally, Sumner, 93, ailing, and absent from the public eye, was officially supporting her authority, but the road to reconciliation had been rocky. According to the journalist Keach Hagey, who wrote a biography of the family, Sumner used to call his daughter a “cunt” in front of company executives.

Redstone kept quiet on the 50-yard line, but in the months that followed, she took a series of steps to quietly push Gifford out. In the summer of 2017, she told Moonves, with whom she’d long been friends, that Gifford had made her uncomfortable, and when merger talks restarted, she believed Moonves would see to it that Gifford wouldn’t make it to the board of a combined company. According to Redstone, Gifford called her afterward and told her that was just how he talked to his daughters.

“I’m not your daughter,” she replied. “I’m the vice-chairman of the board you sit on.”

As merger talks continued in the spring of 2018, she asked Moonves for another assurance that Gifford wouldn’t last. Days later, Gifford, Moonves, and a handful of other board members — including Martha Minow, a former Harvard Law dean whom Redstone had recruited and whom she had recently asked to look into rumors about Moonves’s conduct with women — went to court in a daring bid to strip her of her control of the company, accusing her of “threaten[ing] to replace directors who do not do her bidding, and to force a merger not in the best interest of CBS stockholders … in an effort to bail out Viacom.”

In retrospect, it took some chutzpah for Moonves to take Redstone to court, when as reporting would later show, he was busily covering up the sexual-assault allegations against him. Less than six months later, he was gone. So were Gifford and most of the other elder men on the board who’d backed Moonves. Among the highest echelon of media moguls, the ones who flaunt resort-casual at Allen & Co.’s investment conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, or breakfast at the Regency (though Redstone prefers the Pierre), and who supply the raw material for the HBO drama Succession, her overall position has only strengthened since. A judge affirmed in January that her father had the capacity to designate Redstone as his health agent, definitively blocking claims to his billions by various younger women. CBS and Viacom are once again talking about merging, though Redstone cannot be officially involved until negotiations are further along. If the merger goes through, as it well may this summer, she will have cemented her control of a $30 billion media kingdom.

And Moonves’s stunning downfall has given Redstone, for all her wealth, something she’s never had before: a narrative that justifies her own rise. The #MeToo movement has hardly had a richer target than CBS, with its board of mostly old white men who protected Moonves and shrugged off the company’s treatment of women. Gifford, through his alleged behavior at the Super Bowl, had put Redstone in the position of a woman wondering whether she should report a male colleague for making her uncomfortable (He would later deny her account, saying he had given her “a quick hug, just like I would my own family.”) The new board of CBS is, like Viacom’s, majority female for the first time — and increasingly stacked with her allies. Women are being put in charge and on the air at CBS. And the face of the family controlling these companies was once the patriarch whose embarrasing sexual exploits were aired in court; now it’s his daughter.

If there is such a thing as a feminist mogul — and there are reasons to think there isn’t — she probably doesn’t emerge in the form of an heiress who privately referred to her father’s girlfriends as his “little sluts.” And yet … why not Redstone? She inherited it, but so did the Murdoch brothers, so did Brian Roberts at Comcast, so did the Newhouses and the Sulzbergers and the Hearsts. “There are certain presumptions about sons who take over jobs from their dads,” she said at an event for The Information in New York last month. (She declined to speak for this story.) All the other media companies have lately gotten bigger, validating her logic for the merger; CBS hasn’t collapsed without Moonves; Viacom is no longer in free fall. And Redstone has yet to be accused of sexually assaulting anyone, which is saying a lot in this business.

“She’s a bright young woman, a lot brighter than people give her credit for,” says former Time Warner CEO Dick Parsons, who, until he stepped down from the board for health reasons, served as her Sherpa for the CBS transition. (Parsons, at 71, is six years older than Redstone.) “Make no mistake about it, Shari is her father’s daughter.” There are some differences, he says, chuckling. “Shari is much more concerned with feelings, hers and those of others. Sumner didn’t care about other people’s feelings as far as I could tell,” he continues. “Sumner was very bright, very focused — Sumner could even be ruthless. And Shari has some of those qualities.”

The onetime stay-at-home mother of three is now around the same age her father was when he leveraged his father’s Massachusetts nightclub turned movie-theater business into a global TV-and-movie conglomerate. The media industry Sumner Redstone disrupted a generation ago has changed almost beyond recognition, its future as precarious as it has ever been. If the CBS-and-Viacom merger goes through, his daughter will have asserted her role as one of the most powerful individuals shaping what we watch and stream in the decades to come — assuming, that is, she’s as cunning and lucky as her father. “It’s kind of an empire thing,” Parsons says. “You know, her father built this thing. It would be a shame to let it all sort of fall apart.”

Photo: Clint Spaulding/Variety/Shutterstock (Shari, Phyllis); David Crotty/PMC (Sumner); © Billy Bennight/UPPA/ (Holland, Herzer); Office of The Zvhil-Mezbuz Rebbe, Boston—15 School St., Boston, MA/Wikicommons (Ira); Presley Ann/PMC (Shari); Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic (Brandon); Michael Tran/FilmMagic (Tyler); Alex J. Berliner/ABImages/AP images (Kimberlee); Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images for AWXI (Jason)

Redstone has often said she didn’t want to be part of the media business until her father wanted her to. But Sumner’s love was never unconditional; what he wanted for his daughter was always in the service of what he wanted for himself. He treated his two children, Brent and Shari, the way he treated the executives who ran the companies he gobbled up: golden until they challenged him, disposable when they did. Shari was said to be his favorite. “We have a very loving relationship — she has been the love of my life,” Sumner told Lloyd Grove for a profile in Portfolio in 2009. “When she was a baby, I was the only one she would let feed her.” In the same interview, to dispel the suggestion that there was any tension between him and his daughter, Sumner produced a months-old fax from her, tersely rescheduling plans, signed “love,” but with Shari’s name scrawled by her secretary.

The son of a nightclub owner in Boston with underworld connections, Sumner was undeniably brilliant, reading lyric poetry in ancient Greek at Boston Latin and Japanese at Harvard, breaking codes during World War II, winning a tax case before the Supreme Court. Shari was the second child born to Sumner and his wife Phyllis, the same year Sumner decided to take over his father’s business. The nightclubs had already given way to a drive-in movie theater, which eventually became an indoor-movie-theater chain named National Amusements. Shari attended public schools in suburban Newton, as Sumner began to edge out his father and brother for control.

Shari, for the most part, went her own way. After Tufts and law school at Boston University, she said in June, “I practiced criminal law. I was the only woman in an all-male law firm. I had to be before all-male judges, I had to figure out how much of the game am I going to play to keep my job.” She soon drifted back into business to get a master’s in tax law. There, she met Ira Korff, a direct descendant of the founder of Hasidic Judaism who was working on his sixth or seventh degree. The two married in 1980, and a year later, when the first of their three children was born, Shari decided to stay home full time. She wanted stability for her children and homemade cookies and the undivided attention she never got. By the mid-’80s, with Shari focused on the kids and Sumner having decided his son Brent was too weak-willed for the job, he recruited Ira into the theater business while Sumner thought big.

Viacom, which had split from CBS in 1971 to comply with new regulations on media ownership, had caught Sumner’s attention in the mid-’80s.
His ambitions being loftier than owning a regional theater company, he’d begun buying and selling stock in the studios with which he was negotiating to show their pictures, culminating in a hostile takeover of Viacom. The company, which included MTV Networks and Showtime, was known then as VEE-a-com. Sumner didn’t like the name. “To me that sounded weak, like newborn birds clamoring for worms. The word almost tweeted,” he wrote in his memoir. He decreed that thenceforth, it would be known as VIE-a-com, which “sounded strong, something worth fighting for.” He was 63. Eventually, having tired of the hired help, he dumped the CEO and crowned himself, declaring in 1999, “Viacom is me. I’m Viacom. That marriage is eternal, forever.”

His actual marriages, not so much. A core story of the Sumner legend is his surviving being burned in a hotel fire in 1979, which left him with a gnarled claw of a hand and renewed determination; less discussed is that his longtime girlfriend was in the hotel with him. She was one of many; Phyllis, Shari wrote in an email in 2014, was “verbally and physically and financially abused by him every day of her life.” Phyllis attempted to divorce him in 1984, and again in 1993, but Sumner, terrified of losing half his assets, persuaded her to stay.

By the early ’90s, Shari’s own marriage had unraveled. When Sumner heard the news, his first question to his daughter was whether his son-in-law was going to have to leave the company. He did, eventually, though, according to Hagey, Shari was furious that it took years for her father to stop working with her ex.

Not so furious that she wouldn’t take Ira’s place. In 1994, Shari joined the National Amusements board and started familiarizing herself with the theater business. But her father wanted her to remember who was boss.
In a Forbes profile in 1994, Shari described how, for a change, she had beaten him at tennis. “I said, ‘Dad, doesn’t it make you feel good that here I am, your daughter, and we played tennis together, and I did really well?’ He looked at me and said, ‘No, it doesn’t.’ ”

Sumner’s expansion strategy coincided with the ascendance of cable TV, the cresting of MTV’s cultural power, and, soon enough, South Park and Jon Stewart’s Daily Show. Sumner went from local mercurial millionaire in Filene’s Basement suits to more famous mercurial billionaire, still, at least for a time, in Filene’s Basement suits. He made a risky, romantic play for Paramount Pictures, for which Wall Street believed he overpaid, saddling Viacom with already- flailing Blockbuster Entertainment in a complex move to finance the acquisition. This made Sumner a player in Hollywood, which he relished. The empire would later grow to include a majority stake in CBS (where the CEO turned Viacom president, Mel Karmazin, once remarked to Sumner in Shari’s presence, “I didn’t know this was Take Your Daughter to Work Day”).

For all of Sumner’s self-mythologizing, Wall Street talked about a “Redstone discount,” meaning the cost of his whims and his love of litigation for sport. “The problem was that you were always afraid, if you were a shareholder, that Sumner Redstone was going to take the money and have a good time with it,” explains Columbia Business School professor Bruce Greenwald.
“Buy more crap, buy more power, whatever.” Sumner liked to say “Content is king,” but stock fluctuations and dealmaking were his true fixation. “He got lucky,” says Greenwald. “He bought companies, put them together, pulled them apart, with no particular economic logic. He would talk about how he was going to manipulate the stock.”

What his daughter took from all this was a desire for order and rules, for unexciting words like transparency and governance and a strong board, and she was willing to push back at her father’s excesses. Greenwald got to know Redstone when she was running the family theater chain in the early aughts, when he would invite her to speak to his class. “She was pretty disciplined about what she did, and she was reasonably creative,” he says. She focused on international expansion and opening upscale movie theaters that served cocktails and coffee.

Sumner’s unending and — as his profile rose in Hollywood — increasingly visible infidelities wound up giving Shari some leverage. In 1999, her mother had finally had enough, and Sumner realized his control could slip away if his wife combined her half of his two-thirds ownership of National Amusements with their children’s one-sixth each. In that scenario, she could have forced a sale. According to a lawsuit Brent later filed, Sumner demanded his children sign their voting control over to him. Brent refused, and Sumner saw to it that he was kicked off Viacom’s board. The lawsuit, which accused Sumner of favoring Shari at his expense, resulted in a $240 million settlement. Brent lives on a ranch in Colorado.

Shari took the deal. When the divorce was finalized in 2002, Phyllis gave up a shot at control in exchange for half the cash from Sumner’s holdings, which were put in a trust that would benefit their grandchildren — and included language to the effect that Shari would succeed him.

By then, her kids were just about grown and she was ready to step up her role. She bought an apartment on the Upper East Side in 2004, telling the New York Times she was going to start spending more time at Viacom. At first, Sumner bragged about her, the better to justify his plan. “She is obsessive,” he said in the same article. “She is worse than I am. It is unreal. If she were not doing the right job, she would not be there. She was not there a year before I could see that she was a hotshot.’’

A year later, they were openly at war. Sumner could tolerate a nominal successor but not someone getting in the way of his corporate adventures. She objected when he sought to increase his own pay and when he used National Amusements as an engine for his costly obsession with a video-game company known as Midway Games. It culminated in that 2007 fax to a Forbes reporter in which Sumner railed, “It must be remembered that I gave to my children their stock; and it is I, with little or no contribution on their part, who built these great media companies.” The whiplash could be severe. At a media conference a few months later, when asked what he wanted his legacy to be, Sumner replied unironically, “I guess I’d like to be known as a loving and supportive father and grandfather.”

By the end of 2008, the bursting of the financial bubble was grim vindication for Shari; overloaded with debt, National Amusements was forced to sell the video-game company, into which Sumner had invested hundreds of millions of dollars, for $100,000. It was Shari’s breaking point. She threatened to sue her father for mismanagement and mistreatment, even drafting a complaint, but unlike legions of Redstones who’d sued each other in public court, she made a deal that kept the details of the dispute private. On paper, she was slated to take over the empire, but distanced herself from day-to-day operations and hung out a shingle on her own. In 2011, she founded a venture-capital firm, Advancit Capital, with her daughter’s husband, Jason Ostheimer. (Once again, a Redstone was going into business with the son-in-law and not the daughter.) Her father had always embraced the future, and she wanted to do that too, investing early in the podcast company Wondery and the meditation app Headspace, which she uses herself. Two of the heads of the companies she has invested in told me she keeps in close touch, texting them ideas and inviting them to Patriots games. It was a world without her father and one where people wanted her around.

Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Left to his own devices, Sumner entered what might charitably be called his baroque period. He married a schoolteacher half his age and moved into a Mediterranean mansion in a gated community in Beverly Hills with an indoor aquarium and a pool in which Sumner would swim naked daily. The couple bragged to friends about how much sex they had. After they split, Sumner took up with Sydney Holland, 47 years his junior, after having been introduced to her by Millionaire Matchmaker Patti Stanger in the fall of 2010. A year later, Holland moved in, eating lunch and dinner with Sumner seven days a week and planning Sunday movie night with friends like Charlie Rose.

At first, Shari tolerated Holland. She was biding her time, throwing herself into the tech world in preparation for what she assumed would be her ascension. But her father’s fidelity was ever wavering, and she found herself again competing for the throne, this time with Viacom chief executive Philippe Dauman. “I can’t say what will happen after I’m gone — which will be never,” Sumner told the Times in September 2012. “But everyone understands, I think, that Philippe will be my successor.” Two weeks later, he gave an interview saying no decision had been made.

Worse for Shari, her already strained relationship with her father took a turn in 2013, around the time Argentine-born Manuela Herzer, a Sumner ex he’d stayed friends with, joined Holland in the mansion. Sumner was continuing to publicly undermine Shari’s position as next in line. “I will not discuss succession,” he told the Hollywood Reporter in 2014. “You know why? I’m not going to die.” He was 91. Meanwhile, according to accusations later made in a lawsuit, Holland and Herzer, known in Shari’s circles as “the women,” began methodically draining Sumner’s accounts, having bags of hundred-dollar bills regularly delivered to the mansion. His will was changed to grant them $45 million each; Sumner was stuck with the taxes. Shari finally snapped. “[I] am going to go after [the women] regardless of the strength of the case,” she wrote her children in emails later unearthed in discovery. Most of her rage was reserved for her father, as Sumner and some of his longtime executives, including Dauman, were trying to buy Shari out of the company. “If my father wants me to drop dead, he doesn’t need to do anything else,” she wrote to her children in June 2014. “He has made how he feels about me perfectly clear.” She could have walked away with the cash, but taking her father’s place meant more to her, and she perceived any disruption to the plan as an existential threat.

She emailed her son around that time, “My father deliver a message to me thru his attorney that he understands my children are struggling and he doesn’t give a shit and he doesn’t care that everyone in Sidney and Manuela’s family including their parents and children are treated better and have an easier lifestyle than my children.” Needless to say, her children — Brandon is an investor, as is Tyler, who is also a lawyer, and Kim, who trained as an attorney, is a stay-at-home mother of three — would be fine; according to court filings, the majority of Sumner’s billions, in Viacom and CBS holdings, were in a trust for his grandchildren.

That summer and early fall, aspiration pneumonia left the 91-year-old unable to eat and barely able to speak. During one of his hospitalizations, according to Shari’s camp, a nurse took her aside to express concerns about how the women were treating Sumner. Shari later asked the nurse to keep her son Tyler updated. The nurses, according to eventual litigation, told her Sumner was often in tears, told by the women that his children and grandchildren hated him, and that they gave him Ativan when they wanted him to sign documents. Worst of all, they had allegedly taken away the stock ticker that was one of his few sources of joy.

In January 2015, Shari received a letter, purportedly from her father, asking that she sign a release promising not to sue the women after Sumner’s death. If she did sue, the letter said, she would be disinvited from his funeral and Sumner’s family plots would go to Holland and Herzer. “He thinks the threat of not being allowed to go to his funeral will motivate me,” Shari wrote. In another email, she wrote Tyler, “And why would I ever give SMR his dying wish of peace when he never gave me any peace during my whole life?” She decided to go on the offensive, hiring a private investigator.

In the summer of 2015, Sumner kicked out Holland, who had confessed to having an affair, according to legal filings made by Shari’s camp. By October, Herzer was out, too. That’s when she filed a suit claiming Sumner had recently become incapacitated and seeking to be restored to her position as his health-care agent and in his will. When that failed, Herzer brought a RICO suit against Shari, who Herzer claimed “wanted more” than what Sumner chose to give her: “Knowing that her father’s remaining life was limited, she instead methodically hatched a criminal scheme to take over her father’s life and to then use that dominion to take over CBS and Viacom.” In October 2016, Sumner filed an elder-abuse lawsuit against Herzer and Holland. The women claimed his daughter was behind it.

Holland and Herzer’s response to the lawsuit laid bare just how much Sumner had mingled his sexual appetites with his companies. Holland claimed Sumner regularly made massive payouts to women who provided him with “sexual favors,” including the flight attendant on CBS’s corporate jet ($18 million), the flight attendant’s sister ($6 million), “an aspiring reality-show producer” ($21 million), and a friend of Brandon’s girlfriend ($6 million and a job at Showtime). (Robert Klieger, a lawyer for Shari and Sumner, called Holland’s filing “a work of fiction punctuated by not-so-subtle threats of extortion and an overwhelming stench of greed.”)

The battery of lawsuits dragged into public the question of whether Sumner had had his wits about him — was it when he promised the world to the women, or when he threw them out? Investors had already been wondering whether Sumner had the capacity to be the well-paid chairman of the board of Viacom, which by then had become genuinely troubled, and who was calling the shots if he wasn’t. (If it sounds like the first season of Succession, that’s not a coincidence.) Friends spun dark stories in the press of the mansion as Weekend at Bernie’s.

At an extraordinary one-day trial for Herzer’s suit in May 2016, a judge watched a deposition video in which Sumner, struggling to speak with the help of a speech therapist, repeatedly called Herzer “a fucking bitch.” But what would lead to the judge’s throwing out the case was what Sumner said when asked whom he wanted to make decisions for him. “Shar …” he managed. “Shari.”

There is no question who is in charge now, though it won’t necessarily buy Redstone respect. It will, however, get a lot of men in corporate America to sound like they’re about to join a Lean In circle. “Any woman who is forthright and direct and driven, even if only to the extent of her male counterpart, is going to be characterized as a kind of pushy broad,” says Parsons. “You say ‘sharp-elbowed’ about a man, people are yawning,” says interim chairman of CBS’s board Strauss Zelnick.

Even Sumner had asked his daughter, newly restored to his home in 2016, why everyone hated her. It wasn’t everyone, she replied, just the Viacom board members and executives she’d challenged. She told her father that Dauman had run the company into the ground, letting talent like Jon Stewart walk away and relying on financial engineering to pump up the stock price. Sumner stuck by Dauman anyway, until, according to his court filings, he found out Dauman intended to sell a major chunk of Sumner’s beloved Paramount. Dauman put up a legal fight, but he too was pacified with a settlement. It took until this year to make the women go away; according to a person familiar with the arrangement, they were allowed to keep around $75 million apiece in “gifts” because Redstone wanted them out of the family’s life. Moonves, though he had been paid $650 million over 23 years, left with no golden parachute, after the board heard from two law firms that had looked into allegations that he had used his position to sexually harass and assault women and that he’d fostered an environment at CBS in which other men freely harassed.

Privately, Redstone has begun to talk about Moonves’s desire to push her out and concentrate his corporate power and his abuse of subordinates as interconnected. She has learned to replace the word diversity with inclusion. She asked Parsons to help her choose qualified female board members, including Susan Schuman, whose specialty is female-friendly culture change and who has worked with Facebook, Starbucks, and GE. CBS now has a “chief people officer” and a “chief business ethics and compliance officer.” The entertainment division, once Moonves’s hunting ground, now has an HR officer on every show and in every department and a way to report complaints to an outside line. The news division, where Charlie Rose and 60 Minutes executive producer Jeff Fager once allegedly groped subordinates, now has its first female president, Susan Zirinsky, a morning show with Gayle King firmly in charge, and Norah O’Donnell as only the second-ever female nightly news anchor. (The first was Katie Couric, who called the previous regime a boys’ club.)

The possible merger of Viacom and CBS, once portrayed as the singular and unreasonable obsession of Shari Redstone, looks different in 2019. The two companies have come closer together: Viacom is slowly being turned around by Dauman’s successor, Bob Bakish, who welcomes Shari and her late-night emails; Paramount is no longer losing a half-billion dollars a year and has a decent hit with Rocketman; MTV has lured former HBO documentary queen Sheila Nevins and is spinning off Daria with Tracee Ellis Ross; Nickelodeon is reviving Blue’s Clues. Trevor Noah is finding his footing. Industrywide, “scale” has replaced “synergy” as a survival mantra in the face of technological change. AT&T gobbled up Time Warner last year; in March, Rupert Murdoch, Sumner’s more famous rival, sold most of his assets to Disney. “Do I think we should get scale? Do I want to grow? Do I want to be a bigger player in this new media world? Of course I do,” she told Bakish in a fireside chat in January.

“I call it the march of the penguins,” says BTIG media analyst Rich Greenfield, long a fan of the merger plan. “They’re all huddling together to survive winter … I think Shari understood the importance of scale to survive that coming storm.”

The thinking goes that legacy media might put up a fight against the Netflixes and Apples of the world with their own direct-to-consumer streaming options. CBS All Access is already a modest success, and Viacom has purchased the digital-TV platform PlutoTV; if its pay service included Viacom’s and Paramount’s content alongside CBS’s and Showtime’s, executives hope, more users would sign on. (Are you ready to pay for another subscription service?) The merger is just the beginning, Redstone said at the June event: “I’ve always said I think if these companies come together, we would probably want to look at something after that. And to develop scale and be transformative as we move forward.”

If the merger does happen, it’s generally understood that it will be run by Bakish — an affable human PowerPoint presentation, the opposite of drama. It doesn’t make for good headlines, but it works for Redstone. Perhaps the days of swashbuckling media titans like her father dominating the attention of the business press are over. “That whole generation of old moguls,” says a longtime media banker, “I’m sure they’ll continue to be invited to parties.”

Some people close to Redstone believe the ultimate goal is to cash out, divesting her family of the properties to an overseas buyer, or a tech company, or another telecom. But considering how hard she has fought to get to this point, and how immersed in the companies she’s already been, it’s difficult to imagine her just walking away. “Part of it is a woman’s thing,” says Parsons. “It’s important to her that this whole thing be seen not only as a trial but a rallying cry for women. She’s got to make sure that they’re in the forefront of everything she does.” Another motivation, says Parsons, is legacy. “The number of times she’ll say, ‘My dad said this,’ ‘My dad had this reaction to that,’ or ‘My dad was close to this guy,’ or ‘My dad hated this guy,’ is kind of remarkable.”

Last year at the upfronts, where networks hawk their wares to advertisers, Moonves got a standing ovation in Carnegie Hall. He was in the thick of litigation against Redstone. “So. How’s your week been?” he joked. “For years, I have told you that I will only be out here for a short time. This year, for the first time, I might mean it.” He was right about that. At this year’s upfronts, Redstone came to the CBS party for the first time in three years. This time, everyone wanted to take a photo with her.

*This article appears in the July 8, 2019, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!

Shari Redstone’s $30 Billion Triumph