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Rallying Round Redstone

Readers Report


I didn't recognize the Sumner M. Redstone you wrote about in "Sumner's Last Stand" (Cover Story, Mar. 3). One line sounded right: "With his tirelessness, his passionate enthusiasm, and his laser-beam intellect, Redstone has long been Viacom Inc.'s greatest asset." Unfortunately, the rest of the story was a mean-spirited and muddled profile of Viacom and the man whose singular and bold vision created one of the leading international media companies and began the wave of consolidations that have transformed the media industry.

Contrary to BUSINESS WEEK's conclusion, Viacom's foundation is solid, and Sumner's strategy is fully understood and aggressively pursued throughout the organization. My advice: Stick to the facts, and leave the creative script-writing to others.

Aaron Spelling

Chairman and CEO

Spelling Television Inc.

Los Angeles

Editor's note: Spelling Television is a subsidiary of Spelling Entertainment Group, 78% of which is owned by Viacom.

As a member of Viacom's board, I was shocked by BUSINESS WEEK's superficial analysis of Viacom and the unfair portrayal of its chairman and CEO. Sumner Redstone's leadership qualities--his outstanding intellect, his driving passion, and, above all, his vision--are well known and need no defense from me.

No company in the media industry has been more active than Viacom in shaping itself to capitalize on the burgeoning entertainment and publishing markets. Indeed, as you point out, other companies are engaged in a "frantic bid to focus"--but Viacom is already there. In the last 12 months alone, Viacom has spun off its cable systems, announced plans to sell its radio stations for more than $1 billion, and signed long-term output deals in Europe for its television programming and cable networks.

In addition, the company has launched cable and satellite-TV networks in the U.S. and abroad, entered the broadcast-network business with UPN, reenergized Paramount Pictures, outperformed the publishing industry at Simon & Schuster, and refocused Spelling Entertainment on its core television programming business. As for Blockbuster, Viacom has taken bold steps to strengthen its core video business for the future.

I cannot emphasize enough my dismay at the way you maligned a man whom I have known in many capacities--including his role as a teacher at Boston University Law School during the period when I was dean. In organizing and developing a pathfinding course in entertainment law, he displayed his exceptional talent for creative vision--a trait he has consistently drawn upon in his Herculean development of Viacom's strategic plan for the future.

William Schwartz

New YorkReturn to top


By including the ethanol tax incentive on its corporate-welfare hit list ("The end of corporate welfare as we know it?" News: Analysis & Commentary, Feb. 10), BUSINESS WEEK is spreading untruths about the federal ethanol program.

The ethanol tax incentive is not an appropriate example of corporate welfare. First of all, the ethanol tax incentive is not claimed by major ethanol-producing companies. Rather, it is claimed by thousands of gasoline marketers--by corner gas stations, not by corporate execs.

The reduced tax collected because of the partial excise tax incentive for ethanol blends amounts to less than $500 million annually, not $845 million as quoted in the article. Moreover, a recent study found that the increased farm income and tax revenues attributable to ethanol production offset the "cost" of the ethanol tax incentive, and actually result in a net savings to the federal government of more than $500 million annually.

The ethanol program saves taxpayers money. It also assures competition in fuel markets, stimulates economic growth in rural America, reduces our dependence on imported oil, and saves the government money. That's not corporate welfare, that's a sound investment in America's future.

Eric Vaughn


Renewable Fuels Assn.

WashingtonReturn to top

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