The untold truth of billionaire Sumner Redstone

Clocking in at 97 years, two months, and 15 days, the life of one Sumner Redstone came to an end on August 11, 2020. The name might not be a familiar one, but his credo probably will be: "Content is king."

Born Sumner Murray Rothstein in Boston, Massachusetts, he was the son of entertainment magnate who started what would become National Amusements, Inc., the parent company which currently stands guard over roughly half of the twelve remaining intellectual properties that Disney doesn't own yet. Sumner's early years were busy ones — he convinced his father to change the family name to Redstone, the literal English translation of their original moniker, served in World War II deciphering Japanese coded transmissions with the SIS, and graduated from Harvard in 1947 with a law degree.

It wasn't until 1954 that Redstone became an active part of the company his father had started. According to CNN, he became the CEO of National Amusements, Inc. in 1967, and their already prominent hold on the entertainment industry got some extra oomph thanks to his belief that, basically, content providers would come and go, but the content itself would always be in demand.

And then he bought more things

In one of those moments that really hammers home the way that the ultra-rich get to have all the fun, Sumner Redstone experienced what may have been the most dramatic chapter of his life in March of 1979. According to his autobiography, A Passion to Win, the mogul was staying in a Boston hotel — "I went to sleep thinking about work," he wrote. "It was well after midnight when I woke up and smelled smoke." By his own recollection, he survived the ordeal by hanging from the window by his hands until a fire ladder arrived. Redstone suffered third degree burns across 45 percent of his body, and his wrist "had been almost severed and was literally hanging off" of his arm. The experience was part of what informed his decision to fund research into burn treatments using artificial skin grafts.

By the time of his death, a lifetime of contentious legal battles, bidding wars, and general ceaseless businessmanship had landed Sumner with a fortune estimated at $4.8 billion, according to CNN. His final years, described by ex-girlfriends as an obsessive bacchanalia, were perhaps best summed up by Redstone himself, who expressed in a 2009 interview, "I have no intention of ever retiring, or of dying." He is survived by the basic plot beats of Succession on HBO.