BUSINESSWEEK ONLINE : APRIL 3, 2000 ISSUE
ENTERTAINMENT

Shari Redstone: A Coach with the New England Patriots?


Over a lunch of cold chicken with pasta and salad served in plastic
containers with plastic forks in the boardroom of National Amusements Inc.'s low-rise headquarters in Dedham, Mass., Business Week Media Editor Richard Skills spoke with Shari E. Redstone, National's president. Edited excerpts follow:

Q: What was it like "growing up Redstone"?
A:
My father [Sumner] was a wonderful father. He was a believer in education and good old-fashioned values and community service. He did travel on business a fair amount, but I remember he always brought me those long Tootsie Roll containers and books to read. Of course, both my brother and I had to go to law school to learn to handle dinner discussions with him! My mother was the traditional wife of an executive -- a great hostess and entertainer. She was the softer side.

Q: Given your background -- law, being a homemaker, pursuing social work -- are you surprised you have ended up in your father's business?
A:
I thought I would never ever be in this business or working with my father. But during the Paramount takeover [in 1994], I was by his side, and we spent a lot of time together. I think my father started to see me a little differently, too.

Q: You've been critical of the way some of the "financial players" in the movie-theater business have been putting up megaplexes next to existing cinemas and overbuilding, resulting in tough times industrywide, even though Hollywood just had its best year ever.
A:
We destroyed this business, and it was absolutely unnecessary. This industry will never be what it used to be. That said, in three to five years we'll be on solid ground, back to generating good returns on investment.

Q: Instead of just tightening ratings at movie theaters, as some in Washington are calling for, you are interested in using your moviehouses as venues for forums for families to view and discuss controversial films with social workers or other experts. How would that work?
A:
The answer isn't censorship. It's trying to promote the right environment for kids. The problem is what goes on in the home, not what's on screen. I'm saying, "Let's educate families." With my own kids, I draw the line at sick sex and sick violence. But I'd rather have programs for families -- this gives us an opportunity to really address the underlying issues.

Q: Of course, there's going to be much scrutiny of Viacom's executive suite once the CBS deal closes, to see if your father and Mel Karmazin [CBS's CEO, slated to become president of the combined company] can really work together.
A:
I think everybody went into this deal with their eyes open. I think my father and Mel have a very good relationship -- they both have a strong work ethic and similar objectives.

Q: You're on the board of Viacom, but what does the future hold for you in terms of playing a bigger role there?
A:
That question does come up. Do I plan to be more involved in Viacom as time goes on? Yes. Does anybody know what happens in the future? No. Right now, I'm very pleased with where I'm at, and my children are my No. 1 focus. But before I came here, the job I really wanted was a coaching job with the New England Patriots.

Q: Maybe you really want to own the Patriots.
A:
O.K., I admit that is my dream. Football is my greatest passion in the world. But it doesn't make good business sense. I'd have to figure out a way for it to make sense. But when I walk through the locker room before a game -- that is heaven!



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