Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Nickelodeon, Sumner and Boston

I peddled high school yearbook portrait contracts in New England for 4 years in another lifetime. It was my grandfather's business in which I was lucky enough to cut my teeth on sales experience. My territory covered eastern Massachusetts, from New Hampshire to Providence. I remember calling on every school in the area, whether it was one we had under contract or not. Boston Latin High School was one of them.

Years prior to my endeavors in the greater Boston area, a guy graduated Boston Latin, went to Harvard, and would up in the military in WWII and then went on to work in his father's business--movie theater exhibiting. After years of success in expanding that enterprise, Sumner Redstone acquired several companies which he turned into world-class conglomerates, and he still heads two of them: CBS and Viacom.

How's my connection in Boston with Sumner's entrepreneurial ubber-success? As a graduate of Boston University with a Master's Degree in film production, I was invited to a "Conversation with Sumner Redstone" tonight at Paramount Studios in Hollywood--the oldest and most successful movie studio and owned, of course, by Viacom--Sumner Redstone.

So there I went to hear what this utter success of risky ventures has to say about how it's done. In a state-of-the-art theater that holds 580 people, most seats were empty. I felt real privileged in an intimate sort of way, to hear what this self-made guy thought of about how to become self-made. He had nothing to offer about that. His concern was about copyright violations and digital piracy--at his age of 84, I thought he'd be more concerned about how best to digest his next restaurant meal. No--Sumner is into his business and loves everything about it. If only his billions could buy back a few years so he could continue to have the fun he is obviously enjoying.

And that's when I realized why I went to this affair--I thought I might promote my blog or my wife's book--no, I was intended to be present to hear the one thing Sumner said that resonates and will resonate for my whole life: anyone can follow his or her dreams in this country, and see them fulfilled, regardless of ethnicity, back ground, or anything. That was the real message, although I think Mr. Redstone wanted us all to concentrate more on anti-piracy.

Oh--Nickelodeon along with MTV are huge world-wide entities--Mr. Redstone said when he bought Viacom he was told by "Wall Street" they were a flash in the pan. As was Viacom itself. MTV is watched by 1 billion people worldwide, and Nickelodeon is one of the top networks....

I am inspired to follow my dreams--how about you?

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