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Ne’er-do-Mel

Letter to the editor

To the Editor:

Peter Bart hit the mark with his column about Viacom’s Mel Karmazin on Dec. 8 (“Mel’s Vision Quest”). Many of the Hollywood congloms have lost the gambler’s mentality when it comes to the film business and, in some respects, the TV network arena as well (we can’t offend advertisers, can we?).

The public persona media watchers and Wall Streeters get from Karmazin is a results-oriented, shareholder value-building entrepreneur. But what employees of Viacom and CBS get is one of a budget slasher and micromanager. After all, it has become industry legend that Mel has even sent memos instructing employees about the conservative use of office supplies, including paper clips.

Undoubtedly, Mel helped Viacom move into the media conglom realm, but it really is Sumner Redstone who is the actual visionary entrepreneur and empire builder. Like Redstone, such visionaries and empire-builders as Rupert Murdoch, Ralph Roberts and Barry Diller built their companies from scratch and are self-made men, unlike Mel.

As Mel continues to do his mating dance with Wall Streeters to someday take over Viacom, it should be remembered that this is the man who has fiscally strapped Paramount Pictures from taking gambles on big-budget, paradigm-setting moviemaking.

– M.F.

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