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Unscripted: The Epic Battle for a Media Empire and the Redstone Family Legacy (Hardcover)
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An instant New York Times bestseller • Nominated for the Financial Times and Schroders Business Book of the Year Award
"Addicted to Succession? Well, here's the real thing." - The Hollywood Reporter
“Jaw-dropping . . . an epic tale of toxic wealth and greed populated by connivers and manipulators.” —The New York Times Book Review, Editors’ Choice
The shocking inside story of the struggle for power and control at Paramount Global, the multibillion-dollar 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 Global—the multibillion-dollar entertainment empire that includes Paramount, CBS, MTV, Nickelodeon, Showtime, and Simon & Schuster—hung precariously in the balance. Its founder and head, ninety-three-year-old Sumner M. Redstone, was facing a very public lawsuit brought by a former romantic companion, Manuela Herzer—a lawsuit that placed Sumner’s deteriorating health and questionable judgment under a harsh light.
As one of the last in a long line of all-powerful media moguls, Sumner had been a relentlessly demanding boss, and an even more demanding father. When his daughter, Shari, took control of her father’s business, she faced the hostility of boards and management who for years had heard Sumner disparage her. Les Moonves, the popular CEO of CBS, felt particularly threatened and schemed with his allies on the board to strip Shari of power. But while he publicly battled Shari, news began to leak that Moonves had been involved in multiple instances of sexual misconduct, and he began working behind the scenes to try to make the stories disappear.
Unscripted is an explosive and unvarnished look at the usually secret inner workings of two public companies, their boards of directors, and a wealthy, dysfunctional family in the throes of seismic changes, from the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists James B. Stewart and Rachel Abrams. Through the microcosm of Paramount, 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, Stewart and Abrams lay bare the battle for power at any price—and the carnage that ensued.
About the Author
James B. Stewart is the author of Deep State, Tangled Webs, Heart of a Soldier, Blind Eye, Blood Sport, and the blockbuster Den of Thieves. He is currently a columnist for The New York Times and a professor at Columbia Journalism School. In 1988, he won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the stock market crash and insider trading.
Rachel Abrams was a media reporter for The New York Times and is now a senior producer and reporter for the television series The New York Times Presents. In 2018, she was part of a team that won the Pulitzer Prize for public service for reporting that exposed sexual harassment and misconduct.
“Redstone has found his Ishmael in James B. Stewart, who has ventured once more into the corporate depths and returned, he writes, with ‘an astonishing saga of sex, lies, and betrayal.’ His new book, Unscripted: The Epic Battle for a Media Empire and the Redstone Family Legacy, written with New York Times media reporter Rachel Abrams, joins his earlier probing work on the Walt Disney Co., insider trading, corporate lawyers and the posh netherworld of American business. Imagine a mash-up of King Lear and Weekend at Bernie’s, the 1989 movie comedy about two scamps who prop up a cadaver so they can enjoy a weekend at his beach house, with Redstone starring in both title roles.” —The Wall Street Journal
“In this riveting, Succesion-esque tale of the fight for control of Paramount Global, James B. Stewart and Rachel Abrams weave together a lawsuit, familial conflict, and the lurking Les Moonves.” —Vanity Fair
“Blockbuster reporting.” —New York Times
“A delicious treat . . . Unscripted is a model of how gracefully to tell the most grotesque of stories: that of the final years of Sumner Redstone . . . I lost some sleep unable to put this book down.” — Adam Davidson, New York Times Book Review
“Addicted to Succession? Well, here's the real thing.” —The Hollywood Reporter
“Jaw-dropping . . . an epic tale of toxic wealth and greed populated by connivers and manipulators." —The New York Times Book Review, Editors’ Choice
“Has a business book ever made you blush? . . . There’s the 90-something billionaire with still-active ‘sexual appetites’; the scheming mistresses; threesomes; parked-car encounters; a Sedona love nest; a chief executive who allegedly forced himself on multiple victims; a stolen laptop; shady private investigators; and a cast of characters straight off MTV or another Redstone cable channel. Mixing tight financial reporting with soap-operatic twists and turns, Unscripted makes the amped-up historical fiction of Babylon feel downright chaste by comparison . . . Media insiders and those who followed the Redstone saga will eat this reporting—and some of the other, more comical twists that populate the book—up . . . Unscripted delivers the good.” —The Washington Post
“A deeply reported account . . . The story, whose contours would be familiar to fans of the HBO series Succession, stands as a real-life warning to other family dynasties led by powerful founders . . . a masterful job.” —Financial Times
“The book is a page-turner—an over-the-top tale of money, power, sex, and relentless scheming to wrest billions away from an old man who in his final years seems to have lost the capacity for just about anything except sex.” —Fortune
“Mourning the end of Succession? Unscripted is a real-life equivalent of the popular HBO show, providing a close look at the Redstone family, which owns Paramount Global. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Rachel Abrams and James B. Stewart break down the complex and astonishing narrative of a rich and powerful family and how their personal strifes impacted a major brand.” —Men’s Health
“A deeply reported account of the greed, drama, and misconduct.” —Fast Company
“A must-read . . . A bombshell new book from two Pulitzer winners reveals some truly shocking storylines within the real-life Succession drama that is the Paramount media empire . . . Abrams, a New York Times investigative reporter, and Stewart, a Times business columnist have written a jaw-dropping yarn.” —Daily Beast
“They’ve written the literary equivalent of a guilty binge-watch, whose eye-widening excess is matched only by the feeling of pleasurable superiority one feels while surveying the moral tawdriness of the mega-rich.” —Avenue
“While we're waiting for Succession to come back to the small screen, this new biography of the Redstone family should scratch any lingering itch to learn more about the inner workings of a rich, powerful, and very complicated family.” —Town & Country
“Unscripted is an unsparing examination of a media empire and the flawed men who ran it . . . James Stewart and Rachel Abrams, two New York Times journalists, have put together a deeply reported account of [Sumner Redstone’s] final years, delving in sometimes excruciating detail into his extraordinary antics in both the boardroom and the bedroom . . .Like a lot of reality tv, Unscripted is riveting because its cast is so awful.” — The Economist