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Billionaire media mogul Sumner Redstone dies at 97

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Don Jacobson
Sumner Redstone, executive chairman of Viacom and CBS Corporation, holds a plaque after he was honored with the 2,467th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, during an unveiling ceremony in Los Angeles, Calif., on March 30, 2012. He died Tuesday at the age of 97. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
Sumner Redstone, executive chairman of Viacom and CBS Corporation, holds a plaque after he was honored with the 2,467th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, during an unveiling ceremony in Los Angeles, Calif., on March 30, 2012. He died Tuesday at the age of 97. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 12 (UPI) -- Sumner Redstone, who turned a family-owned chain of drive-in movie theaters into a major U.S. media empire, has died at the age of 97, his company said Wednesday.

Redstone, who was formerly executive chairman of CBS and Viacom, died on Tuesday.

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"It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Sumner M. Redstone, the self-made businessman, philanthropist and World War II veteran who built one of the largest collections of media assets in the world," National Amusements said in a statement.

Through his company, Redstone controlled 80 percent of the voting stock of Viacom and CBS. His net worth was estimated at $3 billion in May.

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"He was a force of nature and fierce competitor, who leaves behind a profound legacy in both business and philanthropy," said ViacomCBS CEO and President Bob Bakish. "[We] will remember Sumner for his unparalleled passion to win, his endless intellectual curiosity, and his complete dedication to the company."

In the 1950s and 1960s, Redstone built National Amusements into a theater chain with dozens of screens and eventually moved into film and television production at Twentieth Century Fox, Columbia Pictures and Paramount.

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Redstone was Viacom's chairman from 1987 to 2016 and acquired media properties such as BET, Blockbuster Entertainment and DreamWorks SKG. He also engineered the $40 billion merger between Viacom and the CBS television network in 2000. The companies later split in 2006, with Redstone serving as executive chairman for CBS until 2016. In December, Viacom and CBS merged once again.

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Redstone's final years were marked by accusations of mental deficiencies and legal battles between family members and others with a stake in inheriting his business empire and personal wealth.

Among those involved in legal actions were Shari Redstone -- his daughter and chairwoman of ViacomCBS -- and granddaughter Keryn Redstone.

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Richard "Dick" Thornburgh, former attorney general of the United States and former governor of Pennsylvania, takes a seat at the witness hearing after U.S. Chief Justice nominee Judge John Roberts testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on September 15, 2005. Thornburgh died on December 31 at age 88. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo

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