With earnings coming out tomorrow, which means he can't talk business, and CNN's Larry King as his interviewer, Viacom and CBS Chairman Sumner Redstone was able to dodge a grilling during his interview session at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills.
Instead, the two seemed to be rehearsing for a summer tour of the Catskills.
King: "How old are you?"
Redstone: "I'm 65." (He's actually 85.)
King: "Then you don't look so amazing."
Redstone did not share much business wisdom, but he did say that at Viacom he "treats everyone like a member of my family." Considering that his latest marriage ended after five years, he's estranged from his son, Brent, and has a tense relationship with his daughter, Shari, we're not so sure how much comfort Viacom employees should take in that.
Redstone didn't steer completely clear of shop talk, however. He laughed off the idea of Jay Leno's new prime-time show being a threat to CBS. "CSI will beat the hell out of him," Redstone said. He also predicted that Paramount's new "Star Trek" movie, which opens May 7, would be a blockbuster.
As for new media and technology such as Facebook and Twitter, Redstone cracked, "I have people that do that stuff for me."
Although he's not posting tweets or updating his Facebook status, Redstone still reads newspapers and had kind words for Rupert Murdoch's stewardship of the Wall Street Journal. "He hasn't screwed it up like the New York Post," he said. However, Redstone doesn't have much faith that newspaper business will outlive him. "I think it is dying," he said of print, adding that he is not sure that there will papers in 10 years.
But he is sure that there will be a Sumner Redstone in 10 years. We lost count of how many times he said he wasn't going to die. King cracked that a eulogist at his funeral would simply say, "He lied."
Redstone shared his longevity secret, which includes a diet heavy on antioxidants, tomato juice with "drugs for men," fish, red wine and vodka (his favorite is Grey Goose).
Redstone did express frustration about being a bachelor again. "Most of the attractive women I know are married," he said.
Later, during the audience Q & A, Redstone asked several female questioners if they were married (most were), which he said proved his point. After the interview, as a scrum of attendees encircled him, Redstone bantered with one young woman, saying he has "more energy" than any man she knows.
-- Joe Flint