Redstone Lawyers Dispute Incompetency Claims

Lawyers for Viacom and CBS chairman Sumner Redstone fired back at his former companion’s claims that he is unaware of his surroundings and unable to make basic decisions about his personal care, claiming the media mogul is as mentally sharp and opinionated as ever.

Redstone’s former companion and self-described caregiver Manuela Herzer painted a disturbing picture of the media boss in a filing in Los Angeles County Court Nov. 24. In that document, Herzer said Redstone had become “a living ghost,” after his former girlfriend, 50-year-old Sydney Holland left him in August.

“Those who know him now describe him as vacant, unable to reliably communicate, unaware of his surroundings and without interest in things that used to excite and engage him,” Herzer said in the filing.

The 92-year-old Redstone’s health has become a concern as the chairman has stepped away from participating in quarterly earnings conference calls and missed both Viacom’s and CBS’ annual shareholder’s meetings this year.

Redstone controls about 80% of Viacom and CBS through his National Amusements Inc. A trust consisting of seven members, including Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman, Redstone’s daughter and National Amusements president Shari Redstone, will have voting control of both companies after his death. 

Herzer laid out in excruciating detail Redstone’s current health state, including his daily demands for steak and sex (neither of which he is supposed to have under doctor’s orders). She states that Redstone is incontinent, requires the suctioning of phlegm and fluid from his lungs 15-20 times per day and almost all of the night, communicates mainly through grunts and cannot initiate a conversation.

Herzer claims she was in charge of making most of Redstone’s health decisions from April 2013 to Oct. 12 of this year, when she was asked to leave Redstone’s home by his estate lawyer. On Oct. 16 Dauman, a long-time confidant of the chairman, was put in charge of his health care.

In response to Herzer’s statements on Nov. 25, Redstone’s own lawyers said the Viacom chairman is in good spirits, has control of all of his mental faculties and is fully aware and engaged.

“Let’s be blunt. Ms. Herzer’s baseless demands and allegations are an attempt to take discovery in service of building a record for the post-death trust contest she intends to bring, and have nothing to do with any present (let alone urgent) concern for Mr. Redstone’s protection,” the filing states, adding that he  continues to be under the care of his long-time physician Dr. Richard  Gold and “has the best care money can buy.”

 “This litigation is a farce and it should be summarily dismissed,” the filing continued. “If Ms. Herzer wants to challenge Mr. Redstone’s estate plan, the very least she could do is wait until he dies.”

The filing also included a statement from Dauman, who had visited Redstone in October and November and found the chairman to be “engaged, attentive and opinionated as ever.”  He continued that at a November meeting he and Redstone spoke on several topics, including the business, watched a basketball game and spoke about a movie he had seen recently.

Dauman admitted that Redstone has “a substantial speech impediment,” but said he speaks to him several times a week by telephone and visits with him monthly.