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A Passion to Win Hardcover – June 5, 2001

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (June 5, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684862247
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684862248
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,192,655 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Sumner Redstone should be dead. At least that's what the prologue to his autobiographical tale of business trial and triumph reveals, relating the story of Redstone's narrow escape and painful recovery from a Boston hotel fire in 1979. It might also be what some of Redstone's business adversaries secretly wish after reading this revealing book. Much has been written about the man in control of the Viacom empire, but in A Passion to Win, the consummate winner spills the beans on how he got to where he is, who stood in his way, and what drives him to succeed.

Redstone began life in a hardscrabble Boston neighborhood in the early 1920s, the son of a Jewish entrepreneur and a woman determined to see her children excel. Instilled with a drive to succeed at an early age, Redstone went from the academically tough Boston Latin School to Harvard to a military career breaking Japanese codes during World War II. After the war, he went back to Harvard for law school, then spent the next seven years immersing himself in a profession based on reason and justice, ideals that he claims hold his life together. Realizing that practicing law was just a business, however, he went on to enter another business arena, joining the movie drive-in company his father had founded and very quickly expanding it, assuming leadership, and changing the company's name to National Amusements. Redstone's story details his experiences at the helm of this company--taking on the big studios by challenging film industry practices like blind bidding; investing heavily in those same studios, often to great profit; gathering the stock-owning clout and financing needed to make a serious bid for Viacom; battling fiercely to win against the Viacom management group's efforts to take the company private; and finally acquiring the media conglomerate in 1987. Many of the juicy bits lie in tales of Redstone's subsequent years with Viacom, his involvement (initially through MTV) with the Clintons, and the company's acquisition of both Paramount (and the bidding wars that entailed) and Blockbuster (and that deal's ensuing battles with Wayne Huizenga). Redstone is obviously a tough player, not averse to overriding team decisions when he believes in his own vision and not afraid to litigate when he feels unjustly treated--something he's done often, though he claims to hate lawsuits and denies suing "too readily." But he's also book smart and business savvy, and his story offers many tidbits of advice on deal making and power playing when the stakes are high.

A Passion to Win isn't going to win any literary prizes; the writing is simple, and the story unfolds in an often-tedious litany of accomplishments. Indeed, as autobiographies go, this one's tone is rather self-satisfied and can even seem petulant when the author is rehashing what he perceives as the many business wrongs committed against him. But this is a tell-all from a high vantage point in corporate entertainment, and as Redstone's personal account of all that helped and hindered on his way to the heights (jam packed with big-name players in entertainment business, law, finance, and politics), it's sure to be a source of anxiety for some and a titillating read for many. --S. Ketchum

From Publishers Weekly

Redstone made his first big splash in the media world at the age of 63 when, after a hotly contested battle against the management of Viacom, he acquired the company, which owns MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon and Showtime/the Movie Channel (as well as this book's publisher, Simon & Schuster). The 1987 purchase of Viacom and Redstone's prolonged ultimately successful struggle with Barry Diller over the acquisition of Paramount are the two pillars around which Redstone has constructed his autobiography. While rich in detail about his business dealings, it gives only scant attention to his private life (in any case, Redstone readily acknowledges, "Viacom is my life"). Redstone's obsession to build the world's largest software-driven media company had harsh consequences for a number of less-powerful executives. While it was predictable that Redstone would fire an executive like the "volcanic" (one of the milder terms he uses to describe the former Simon & Schuster chairman) Dick Snyder, it was more surprising when he axed Frank Biondi, who had helped him build Viacom. More to Redstone's liking is Mel Karmazin, who became Viacom's COO after the company acquired CBS in a friendly takeover in 1999. Under his leadership, Viacom has become one of the most powerful media conglomerates in the world. While he claims he has no use for the limelight, Redstone also seems to feel he hasn't received enough credit for his accomplishments. Anyone interested in learning about the making of Viacom will enjoy this insider's view from the man who had the passion to make it happen. (June 8)Forecast: In addition to review attention, this engaging memoir should attract news and feature coverage. A five-city author tour will likely help and boost sales for a book you can bet the entire conglomerate is fully behind.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By "onthemoney" on July 15, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Redstone is clearly a tenacious presence in the entertainment business and has built an incredible empire. This man took no shortcuts getting to the top of the mountain. There are some great lessons in this book. However, I was incredibly put off by his litigious nature. Redstone has filed numerous lawsuits during his professional career, and has threatened many more. Frankly, I got tired of reading about all of the "wrongs" that kept cropping up in his business and personal life. It seems that he is somewhat unfulfilled if he doesn't have a lawsuit against somebody going on. He claims that he only sues as a last resort. Please. As many as he has done it is clearly a tool of primary choice. One must presume Redstone never wronged anyone else. His enormous ego is also on prominent display in the book. You would expect that someone in his position would have a healthy dose and Redstone does not disappoint.
Another point of contention is his constant harping of his character and credibility. He claims that they are the bedrock of his existence. OK, what was he doing in Europe photographed with a young woman-although he claims innocence his wife left him after 52 years of marriage. He may have been innocent but his wife had apparently seen enough. Is this character and credibility? His reliance on his credibility is highly selective-Beavis and Butthead are the epitome of character and credibilty?
Also, after he purchased CBS his top 2 lieutinants were being squeezed out of positions. These gentleman were significant players in his building of Viacom and he played dumb in claiming he didn't know they would lose their place after acquiring CBS(they brought it to his attention). Redstone stated that he would call off the deal if they wanted him to do it. PLEASE.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 25, 2002
Format: Hardcover
If one is asked to describe a blueprint for genocide, Hitler's "Mein Kampf" invariably comes to mind. Thus ever should Sumner Redstone's "A Passion to Win" be linked with the equally heinous crime of cultural genocide.
In this book, Mr. Redstone recalls the long road that led him from drive-in theater projectionist to media mogul. At every twist and turn, Mr. Redstone defeats "incomprehensible" odds to claw his way to the top of his "entertainment" empire. The capstone of this empire was his acquistion of Viacom, and with it, MTV.
Redstone describes with almost messianic fervor how he ignored advice to sell off the fledgling music channel. "I believed that MTV could be a cultural force in America" (page 116). "Young people 12 to 20 were going to become adults of 30 to 40...", "If we attracted them early, we could keep them forever." (page 117).
Well, attract them he did, and anyone who can sit through ten minutes of MTV "programming" can readily appreciate Mr. Redstone's "cultural messages". (Try searching "Shower Rangers" on you favorite browser some time. Thanks, Sumner!).
Even more sinister is the calculating way in which he targets the youngest viewers for his oily propaganda. "I felt much the same way about Nickelodeon and the possibilities in creating a children's brand." (page 117). From cradle to grave, Uncle Sumner had a direct conduit to America's, and then the world's, most impressionable viewers.
But Mr. Redstone does not live in a vacuum. He has children and grandchildren of his own. They grew up with the MTV generation too (Can't you just see Grampa Sumner settling down with the grandbabies to watch some quality rap videos?). Mr.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Todd Havens on February 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Wow! I'm the first to review this book here in over a year!

A Passion to Win was recommended to me by a fellow Viacom employee, though he's at Paramount and I have freelanced at MTV for the past four and a half years. I'm embarrassed to say that I previously knew nothing of Sumner Redstone or his behind-the-scene battles to turn Viacom into the world's top entertainment company. When confronted with the inevitable bureaucracy of performing my job duties, I just envisioned a nameless, faceless corporation that really only cared about the bottom line.

What a treat it was to spend the last day and a half seeing operations from the creator's perspective! I have a newfound respect for Mr. Viacom (or Mr. Redstone) and every other division that has invariably kept him awake at night as he set to reform it from the inside out. Quite an inspiring and optimistic tome from someone who could easily have concentrated on the negatives of his own triumphant journey.

I was surprised with Redstone's candor in recounting his business deals, including the personalities of the players involved. The character "types" he has dealt with paralleled my own encounters with businessmen over the years. It was comforting to know that our dealings were not so dissimilar, only in the scope of what was being negotiated.

I'm sure Sumner has his share of detractors, but I was really impressed with his story. I found myself cheering (though not audibly) when he closed a significant business deal. The uncomplicated prose actually helped me through most of the legal situations, as that's never been an area of interest for me.

Suffice it to say that I think this book holds up exceedingly well, giving great insight into one of the top business minds currently at play on the American (even global) corporate landscape. A complete recommendation.
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