Though a settlement has been reached between Viacom and Sumner Redstone’s National Amusements, Redstone’s ability to agree to a deal will be questioned by his granddaughter in a hearing Friday.
Keryn Redstone continues to object to moves being made that involve the trust that will control Viacom and CBS after Sumner Redstone dies. She also wants to be present if the 93-year-old media mogul is deposed, which could happen on Sept. 1.
The Massachusetts court has jurisdiction over National Amusements and the Redstone family trust. Part of the agreement includes dismissing lawsuits between the company and its controlling shareholders. Even if those claims are settled and dismissed by the judge, that would not dispose of Keryn Redstone’s claims, her lawyer said.
A Delaware court is looking at suits involving directors of Viacom.
In legal papers filed Thursday in Massachusetts, Keryn Redstone notes that Sumner Redstone is a signatory on the agreement. “Given the detailed eyepoping allegations” made by Philippe Dauman, who agreed to step down as CEO of Viacom and a trustee, “what (if anything) did plaintiffs—as trustees with a fiduciary duty to Sumner and the beneficiaries—do to assure themselves that Sumner now has the mental capacity to understand the terms of the settlement agreement or its legal effect?”
The papers add that “just a few weeks ago, plaintiffs were unwavering in their assertion that Sumner could not speak, read, write or ‘fully reason’ and was ‘unable to evaluate the things around him or appreciate the consequences of his actions’ or ‘detect fraud.’”
Keryn asserts that the court should hold an evidentiary hearing at which Sumner Redstone, his daughter Shari Redstone and Dauman testify so it can determine for itself whether Sumner Redstone has sufficient capacity to understand the “radical change in his succession plan.”
Like Keryn Redstone, before the settlement, Dauman, who receives a $72 million golden parachute as part of the deal, asserted that Redstone was incompetent to make business decisions and was under the undue influence of Shari Redstone.
Keryn Redstone also objects to a part of the agreement in which the trustees who replace Dauman and another Viacom director, George Abrams, agree never to question the actions of their predecessors. She claims that a breach of their fiduciary duty as a trustee.
The parties have also been working to arrange a deposition of Sumner Redstone, which could take place Sept. 1. Keryn Redstone objects to some of the terms lawyers representing Sumner Redstone are seeking.
Sumner Redstone’s representatives don’t want Keryn Redstone present at the deposition and, because the mogul has trouble talking, want to use “interpreters,” who claim to decode what the sounds he makes mean.
Keryn’s lawyers say that normally parties are allowed to attend depositions and that it is unusual for English-speaking witnesses to use interpreters.
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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.