Media Mogul In Training
As the head of Viacom's parent company, Tufts graduate Shari Redstone is impressing many as she confidently emerges from her father's shadow.
Boston [05.02.02] Shari Redstone didn't intend to take a major role in her family's business -- in fact, she started her legal career with every intention of avoiding it. But the 1975 Tufts graduate eventually found herself interested in the $23 billion media and entertainment conglomerate run by her father -- Sumner Redstone -- and has quietly emerged as an impressive businesswoman and potential successor to the family's empire.
"Nobody in the entertainment industry is rising as fast as Shari," father Sumner Redstone said in a Forbes Magazine article published this week. "It's like father, like daughter. She has no major weaknesses. She is a great businesswoman."
In fact, the media mogul often describes his daughter as a clone of himself.
Already, she's proven that she has her father's business sense. As president of National Amusements -- an international chain of theaters with 1,400 movie screens worldwide, Redstone has doubled her company's size during her tenure without weakening its financial strength.
"National Amusements seems to be thriving at a time when once luminous names like Regal Cinemas, United Artists and Loews Cineplex have all made visits to bankruptcy court," reported Forbes. "National Amusements takes in $270,000 per screen in box office receipts, compared with a nationwide average of $237,000."
The Tufts graduate also oversaw National Amusement's expansion into Latin America and Britain -- key moves that have propelled the 66-year-old chain to the top of the theater industry.
A relentless dealmaker, Redstone -- like her father -- has earned a reputation for seemingly endless energy.
"Sleep is something you can eventually get to, but a missed deal is lost forever," she told Business Week Magazine.
As Forbes describes her, "She wears gray power suits, is a two-fisted negotiator and is even described by fans as a steel fist in a velvet glove."
Few doubt her effectiveness.
While many of her competitors watched their companies fall into financial straits over the last few years, Redstone's $600-million-a-year chain continued to thrive.
"She has exceeded my highest expectations," Sumner Redstone told Forbes. "In a very difficult period of time, she did better than anyone else in the industry."
The Tufts graduate's performance at National Amusements has led many to speculate about future roles she may take at Viacom -- the much larger media conglomerate run by Sumner Redstone and owned by National Amusements -- especially as her father plans the company's long-term future.
"Quietly -- and surprisingly -- Shari Redstone is emerging from the shadows at Viacom's much smaller parent company, poised to play a key role in the entertainment industry and in the world's third-biggest media conglomerate," reported Business Week.
But Redstone wasn't always focused on running the family business -- in fact, she chose a career after graduating from Tufts that would keep her on a different path from her father.
"I wanted to be independent, so I went out and got a law degree and practiced law for a while," she told Box Office Magazine. "But, to be honest, I thought, 'Business is boring' -- which only goes to show how wrong we can be in our youth."
After working as a defense attorney for several years and raising three children, Redstone was convinced by her father to take a position at Boston-based National Amusements.
"I decided to give it a shot and test the waters," she told Box Office. "But testing the waters went to marathon swimming before I knew it."
It didn't take her colleagues long to realize her natural talents.
"Shari is one of the most amazing women I have ever known," Paramount President Sherry Lansing told the Hollywood Reporter. "She's bright, warm, strong -- but not tough. She's got a great sense of humor, great insight, great wit."