Sumner Redstone's Birthday Wishes: Immortality, Omnipotence


Who else but Sumner Redstone would use the occasion of a shareholder's meeting to remind the people who own his company's stock how little they mean to him?

If there was any doubt that Redstone, executive chairman of both CBS (CBS) and Viacom (VIA), regards both of those companies as his personal property, he dispelled it Wednesday when he told CBS stockholders, "I will never, never sell Viacom or CBS."

Okay, then.

Never mind that conditions in the marketplace, while improving lately, are such that GE saw fit to sell NBC to Comcast, and rumors continue to percolate that Disney is shopping ABC. Never mind that most corporate chieftains, mindful of their duty to at least entertain any scenario that would benefit investors, know to deflect sale speculation with anodyne phrases like "We are always looking at the optimal mix for our portfolio." Redstone wants the world to know he's going to own Viacom and CBS forever, and if Wall Street doesn't like it, well, then, Wall Street knows where to shove it.

No Deeper Purpose to His Mission?

What's particularly odd about Redstone's determination is that it doesn't seem to have a deeper purpose. His News Corp. (NWS) counterpart, Rupert Murdoch, uses the bully pulpits of Fox News and The Wall Street Journal to influence policy in a conservative direction. Redstone's holdings contain no such platforms for advocacy -- CBS News hardly counts -- and, anyway, Redstone has no particular political leanings he seems to want to express.

Nor does he seem to share Murdoch's dynastic ambitions. While the 79-year-old Murdoch grooms his children and tutors them in the ways of moguldum, Redstone, who turns 88 today (happy birthday, Sumner!) feuds endlessly with his heir apparent, Shari, refusing to annoint her as such even though she's the obvious choice.

Redstone has often said in the past that he plans to live forever. Maybe he's actually not joking?