There was a time, not long after Sumner Redstone came to Southern California four years ago, when the world must have seemed rosy and new and full of hope. At 82, an age when peers were dead or lying in retirement homes, Redstone had everything a mogul could want: between his two main companies, Viacom and CBS, he owned a television network, cable channels by the score, and not one Hollywood movie studio but two--Paramount, with its sprawling lot, seized in a takeover fight 10 years before, and his newest acquisition, DreamWorks SKG, home to Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen. On top of all that, Redstone had a sparkling young wife and a new home in a gated community above Beverly Hills, where he spent his days tending tropical fish, taking phone calls, and shaving nude in his hot tub. Sylvester Stallone lived next door. He ate out every night. Life was good.
Not anymore. By late summer Redstone had begun squabbling again with his daughter, Shari, 53, who runs National Amusements, the family's movie-theater chain, and reportedly fighting with his wife, Paula. At the same time, relations between Redstone and the influential Geffen-Spielberg-Katzenberg troika--incensed by a stream of perceived slights--had deteriorated into a nasty cold war, to the point where it is widely believed Spielberg and Geffen will resign the moment Spielberg's employment contract expires, next fall. Down at the Ivy and the Palm, the gossip about Redstone is withering: among the agents and producers in Hollywood's chattering class, he is increasingly viewed as an isolated, mean-spirited old man who cares nothing for the film community's traditions. All summer the ill will bubbled up into a series of unflattering media portrayals--much of which Redstone now blames on the man he has come to believe is behind not only the bad press but almost all of his "image problems" in the broader Hollywood community: David Geffen.