The Delaware Chancery Court judge hearing lawsuits over media mogul Sumner Redstone’s attempt to replace the bulk of Viacom’s board, including CEO Philippe Dauman, said that Redstone’s competency “may well” be relevant to the case.
For now, however, when it comes to evidence about Redstone’s competency, he is deferring to ongoing litigation in Massachusetts and California, which are also likely to eventually look at the 93-year-old’s ability to make decisions.
During a hearing Wednesday, he asked lawyers to keep him up to date on development in those other jurisdictions.
“I’m not going to duplicate that. There are questions of human dignity to a very elderly person,” said judge Andre Bouchard. “That’s treacherous ground to dive into too quickly. And so I’m going to be cautious in that respect, particularly in light of the other proceedings.”
Viacom is incorporated in Delaware. Redstone grew up in Massachusetts and created the trust that holds 80% of the voting rights to Viacom there. Meanwhile, Redstone lives in California, and wants that jurisdiction to handle issues involving his competency.
Redstone, and his daughter Shari, are engaged in a battle for a $40 billion media empire topped by Viacom and CBS. On the other side is Dauman, Redstone’s right hand man for years. During Viacom earnings calls Redstone would often call Dauman “the wisest man he knows.”
Redstone has moved to dismiss Dauman and other Viacom directors, from the Viacom board, from the board of National Amusements, the Redstone family holding company.
Redstone says he no longer trusts Dauman. Dauman and other Viacom directors charge that Redstone is being unduly influenced by Shari.
Judge Bouchard also said he expected the two sides to agree on a status quo order by Thursday that would leave Viacom’s current directors in place until a court decision affirming Redstone’s ability to replace them.
If such an agreement can’t be met, the judge said he’d see the parties again Friday.
A hearing in the Massachusetts case is scheduled for June 30.
Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.
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