James B Stewart
The shocking inside story of the struggle for power and control of Paramount, the multibillion entertainment empire controlled by the Redstone family, and the dysfunction, misconduct, and deceit that threatened the future of the company, from the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists who first broke the news
In 2016, the fate of Paramount – the media empire that includes Viacom, CBS, and Simon & Schuster – hung precariously in the balance. Its founder and head, 93 year old Sumner Redstone, was facing a very public lawsuit brought by a former romantic companion, Manuela Herzer—she, along with another of his girlfriends, Sydney Holland, had tried to influence the aging media mogul to cut off his own family and hand over his bank accounts and controlling shares. After their machinations came to light, Herzer was excised from the will, and Sumner’s daughter, Shari Redstone, took charge of her father’s care.
But Herzer’s lawsuit brought Sumner’s deteriorating health – and questionable judgement – to light, and Sumner was forced to step down from his role as executive chairman. Shari, whose relationship with Sumner had been less than warm, took control of her father’s business, to the frustration of the board and management who for decades had heard Sumner bemoan his daughter’s ideas. Les Moonves, the popular CEO of CBS, was particularly incensed; scheming with his allies on the board, he called to dilute the Redstone family’s shares and strip Shari of power. But while he publicly battled Shari, news began to leak that Moonves was being investigated for several instances of sexual assault; fearing for his job, Moonves began to backchannel with a down on his luck talent scout, in the hopes that finding roles at CBS for his accusers might make the story disappear.
UNSCRIPTED is an explosive and unvarnished look at the usually-secret inner workings of two public companies, their board of directors, and a wealthy family in the throes of seismic changes. Through the microcosm of this company, whose once victorious business model of cable fees and ticket sales is crumbling under the assault of technological advances, and whose workplace is undergoing radical change in the wake of #MeToo, Black Lives Matter, and a distaste for the old guard, New York Times reporters James B. Stewart and Rachel Abrams lay bare the battle for power at any price—and the carnage that ensued.