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Redstone files for divorce

MEDIA

The parting is amicable for the irascible chairman of Viacom and CBS.

October 22, 2008|Claudia Eller and Meg James | Eller and James are Times staff writers.

Media magnate Sumner Redstone has filed for divorce from his wife of five years, Paula Fortunato, citing irreconcilable differences.

The split comes as the 85-year-old chairman of Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp. faces financial difficulties. His family-owned holding company, National Amusements Inc., is scrambling to restructure $1.6 billion in debt after it violated the covenants of its bank agreements.

Amid the ongoing credit crisis, Redstone nearly two weeks ago was forced to sell $233 million of National Amusements' shares in Viacom and CBS to pay down debt. The Boston-based holding company faces a mid-December deadline to come up with an additional $800 million for the banks.

A prenuptial agreement signed by Fortunato before she married Redstone in April 2003 stipulates that she receive at least $5 million, or $1 million for each year of their union, according to people familiar with terms of the agreement.

Those people said any divorce settlement would come out of Redstone's pocket, not National Amusements'. Redstone's net worth is largely tied up in his 80% stake in National Amusements, which controls CBS, Viacom, video gaming publisher Midway Games Inc. and a chain of movie theaters.

According to the divorce petition filed Friday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Redstone and Fortunato have entered into a "marital settlement agreement" with respect to their community property, assets and debts.

"After 5 1/2 years together, we have amicably ended our marriage," the couple said in a statement Tuesday. "While this is a difficult decision for both of us, we remain close and supportive friends and are committed to each other's continued happiness and success. We will have no further comment and hope that you will respect our privacy."

Redstone recently has been telling friends that his marriage to the 46-year-old former third-grade teacher was over.

Even after the papers were filed, the troubled couple socialized together through the weekend. They dined with current and former Paramount Pictures executives, including the studio's current chairman, Brad Grey; Grey's predecessor, Sherry Lansing; and her former boss, Jonathan Dolgen.

Fortunato subsequently left their Mediterranean-style mansion, perched in the gated enclave of Beverly Park high above Beverly Hills, to stay with family in New York and New Jersey, people familiar with the situation said.

This was Redstone's second marriage. In 1999, his 52-year marriage to Phyllis Redstone ended in divorce. She received a $100-million cash settlement, according to a person close to the family.

Redstone has a history of stormy relations with members of his immediate family, including his brother, his nephew and his two children. His son, Brent, sued in 2006, alleging that his father and sister had cut him out of the family business. National Amusements last year paid Brent a $240-million settlement.

Sumner Redstone has been in a yearlong public feud with his daughter, Shari, who runs National Amusements, and the two have been discussing ways to sever their business ties.

However, that breakup is on hold because Shari Redstone is now helping lead negotiations with bankers to restructure the firm's huge debt.

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claudia.eller@latimes.com

meg.james@latimes.com

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