Shari Redstone is the American media executive who owns the controlling shares of both CBS and Viacom. She is the president of media giant National Amusements, which was founded by her grandfather, Michael Redstone. National Amusements is the parent company of both CBS and Viacom. National Amusements is estimated to be worth over 30 billion dollars, and Redstone is the first American woman to control a media empire of this size.
Redstone released a statement today saying that she had absolutely nothing to do with the reporting about Moonves’s alleged sexual misconduct. She said that there was a “malicious insinuation” that she was somehow behind the leaks to the media, but she totally denied this. Speaking through a spokesperson, she said, “The malicious insinuation that Ms. Redstone is somehow behind the allegations of inappropriate personal behavior by Mr. Moonves or today’s reports is false and self-serving. Ms. Redstone hopes that the investigation of these allegations is thorough, open and transparent.”
Here’s what you need to know about Shari Redstone.
1. Redstone Is Locked In a Legal Dispute With CBS News About Her Plans for a Merger
Earlier this year, Redstone moved to push through a merger between CBS and Viacom. Both companies are majority controlled by National Amusements. The Wall Street Journal reported that Redstone decided on the merger because she wanted to have more control over both companies, especially because she wanted the power to fire CBS Corp director Charles Gifford after the two had an unpleasant run-in.
On May 14 this year, CBS filed a lawsuit against National Amusements charging that the company had improperly interfered with the operations of CBS. You can read about that lawsuit here. CBS announced that it would start selling more stock in order to “dilute” Redstone’s power. She currently owns the majority of stock in both CBS and Viacom.
The legal fight between CBS and Redstone is still going on. It’s not clear whether new allegations against CBS chief Leslie Moonves will impact the fight at all. On Friday, the New Yorker magazine was expected to publish an article claiming that Moonves inappropriately kissed and touched women, in a series of incidents spanning 20 years.
2. Redstone’s Father Reluctantly Made Her Executive Vice President of National Amusements in 1995
Redstone holds a law degree from Boston University. She grew up watching her father, Sumner Redstone, grow National Amusements into a media empire. But Redstone did not join the company until relatively late in life. She has three children, and dedicated some years to staying at home with them. It wasn’t until 1995, when Redstone was 41, that her father made her the Executive Vice President of National Amusements.
Prior to that, Redstone’s husband, Ira Korff, had worked for National Amusements. Korff was an ambitious, Harvard-educated lawyer and Sumner Redstone got along with him immediately. After Ira and Shari got married, Sumner Redstone hired Ira to work for National Amuseuments. Even after the couple got divorced, Sumner pushed to keep Ira working for the company, which apparently caused a major rift between him and Shari. It wasn’t until after the divorce that Sumner recruited Shari to join the company and, eventually, made her executive vice president — the same title he had held under his own father.
3. Redstone Is Divorced And Has Three Children. Her Sons Work For National Amusements Too
Redstone met her ex-husband, Ira Korff, when both of them were students at Boston University Law School. Korff came from a family of Boston rabbis. He was highly educated and ambitious — two qualities which apparently made Shari’s father, Sumner, admire Ira right away. Sumner is said to have seen something of himself in Ira. After Ira and Shari married, Sumner hired Ira to work for National Amusements.
Ira and Shari have three children: Kimberlee Korff Ostheimer, 36; Brandon Korff, 34; and Tyler Korff, 32. Kimberlee, a former Legal Aid lawyer, is now primarily a stay at home mother caring for her two young children. Brandon is the managing partner of a real estate developing firm, Panoply Properties, and also a director at national Amusements. And Tyler, a lawyer and a rabbi, is also a director at National Amusements.
4. In 2013, Redstone Hired a Private Eye To Investigate Her Father’s Girlfriends
By 2013, Sumner Redstone was divorced from his wife. He and his daughter, Shari, were feuding. Their feud was long-standing and wide-ranging. They disagreed about Sumner’s investments, especially those involving Midway Entertainment, the company which produced the Mortal Kombat video games. Sumner had publicly said that he wasn’t sure whether Shari should ever succeed him as president of National Amusements.
Meanwhile, Sumner’s personal life was becoming more and more bizarre. Divorced, aging, and in failing health, he began living with two women much younger than him. He reportedly spent millions of dollars on Manuela Herzer and Sydney Holland, and his daughter got suspicious. So she hired a private investigator to look into their backgrounds.
In 2015, the two women, Herzer and Holland, were profiled in Vanity Fair, where they accused Shari and her son Tyler of plotting to steal Sumner’s money. But their strategy backfired. One of the women’s secret boyfriends read the article and came forward to talk about his secret affair with one of the women. This led Sumner, who at the time was living with a feeding tube, to kick both women out of his mansion. This also led Sumner to reconcile with Shari.
5. A New Book Charges That Redstone, Who Controls a 30 Billion Dollar Empire, Still Faces Harassment In the Workplace
A new book by Wall Street Journal reporter Keach Hagey ( The King of Content: Sumner Redstone’s Battle for Viacom, CBS, and Everlasting Control of His Media Empire) claims that workplace harassment is still a very real issue for Shari Redstone. Even though she is one of the world’s most powerful women, sitting atop a multi-billion dollar empire, Shari Redstone apparently has faced many, many incidents of misogyny and harassment.
In a recent incident, CBS Corp. Director Charles Gifford reportedly grabbed her face and twisted her neck to make her look at him, while he lectured her in a “paternal” manner. Gifford himself said afterwards that he was only treating Redstone the way he treated his own daughters when they misbehaved. He was 74 years old at the time, and Redstone was 63.
Besides that incident, the book says that Redstone has been mistreated — and talked down to — by men throughout her career as a National Amusements executives. She has said that men “snickered” in boardrooms when she spoke, and that they often “belittled” her or “talked down” to her.
The book describes one day when her father, Sumner Redstone, brought her to visit Viacom’s executive offices. Shari, in her 40s, was already an executive at National Amusements. “Viacom’s then-president sarcastically asked Mr. Redstone if it was ‘take-your-daughter-to-work day,'” the book says.