As with most great leaders, his most valuable asset was self-confidence. When they took that away, he lost everything.

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Boston Copley Plaza Hotel fire March 29, 1979

“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” — William Shakespeare, King Henry IV

Ask anyone who has worked closely with Sumner Redstone and they’ll say they knew they would eventually be fired, just not precisely when. It seems like Redstone shuffled chief executives the way people discard old tires. The distinguished club that worked for Redstone includes CEOs of Viacom and CBS who oversaw Paramount Studios, CBS Network, MTV, SKG Dreamworks, Comedy Central, and The Oprah Winfrey Show.

On the plus side, he paid well.

The problem is that Sumner Rothstein was a genius, a fact he was never shy about admitting. By genius, I don’t mean it in the sense of “you should meet my brother in law — he’s a genius.” Redstone had an IQ over 160. The reason I know that is he told me so. If you doubt the Redstone myth, look at the resume. He graduated Boston Latin School a year early, the most prestigious public preparatory high school in the United States, and landed first in his class. Naturally. He went to Harvard, where he graduated at age nineteen. Then the Encryption Corps, where he worked on complicated Japanese cipher codes. …

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Warren Buffett has made huge mistakes throughout his life. He bet on airlines before they tanked. He bought an investment bank prior to a bond trader defrauded the U.S. government. He trusted a senior partner to help him find good deals and didn’t know the partner was on the take. So why is he so rich, successful, and happy?

How does he maintain the balance that allows him to come back each day and find value for his shareholders and personal pleasure for himself? To learn from mistakes so that not only does he not repeat, but he improves the odds? It’s called the Buffett System of Compounding Intelligence. The other word for it is wisdom.

“When we respond to information without a filter, it turns us into screaming monsters or slavish consumers.”

Warren Buffett is a technophobe (not actually), yet he uses a noise-canceling device every day. It is a news filter called quality information or QI for short. It also happens to be a more reliable predictor of sound decision making than its better-known cousin, IQ.

While some of us react automatically to a social media post by joining the nearest protest or demonizing someone on Twitter, Buffett analyzes the facts first. …

During his life, if he was alive, Sumner Redstone was winning.

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Sumner Redstone (right) with Philippe Dauman during better times (photo Fortune Magazine)

“It’s Sumner Redstone,”…my admin whispered with hushed urgency.

I was the publisher of Forbes Magazine. Getting I picked up the phone, and Sumner was on the line.

“Jeff, can you come to my office.”

When Sumner calls, you don’t ask why.

The next day I was seated in front of a lavish lunch buffet in the anteroom next to Redstone’s palatial office on Broadway in New York City’s Times Square. …


Jeff Cunningham

2019 @TellyAwards for documentary interviews @; Author and opinion writer on leadership and history @; ex-publisher @Forbes

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