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Redstone v. Dauman Heats Up in Boston

The Sumner Redstone circus heads to court this week as a Massachusetts judge will hear arguments in Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman’s lawsuit against the media mogul on June 7. 

While anticipating a move by Redstone to oust Viacom’s board and management, Dauman and another Viacom director challenged the 92-year-old controlling shareholder’s competence to make the decision to remove them as trustees of the trust that will control Redstone’s assets after he dies. 

At stake in the legal and public relations battle between Redstone and Dauman is the future of a $40-billion empire that includes the struggling Viacom and a more prosperous CBS. 

Dauman and the board claim that Redstone is being illegally influenced by his daughter, Shari Redstone. 

Granddaughter Keryn Redstone last week sided with Viacom’s directors against her aunt, accusing Shari Redstone in a statement of managing to “effectively kidnap, brainwash and take advantage of my grandfather due to his debilitated state of mind and frail health. What is happening now would be his worst nightmare if he had even the slightest mental capacity or understanding of what Shari was doing to him.” 

Sumner Redstone filed a petition in California to uphold his decision to dump Dauman from his trust. And Shari Redstone came out with a blistering statement reminding the directors that they ought to be less concerned about her activity and keeping a closer watch on Viacom’s financial performance. 

Earlier this year, Viacom’s stock price was near all-time lows. The battle for control has helped boost the stock by more than 40% since then. 

“Shareholders…have already spoken—they want new management at the top and strong Directors with independent oversight on the Board,” Shari Redstone said. 

One key member of Viacom’s management, ad sales chief Jeff Lucas, was reported to be leaving to join Snapchat. Viacom earlier this year made a deal to sell ads for Snapchat. Lucas was engaged in upfront negotiations last week and could not be reached. Viacom had no comment. 

And just when you thought the whole mess couldn’t get weirder, Sumner Redstone’s former girlfriend, Sydney Holland, is a candidate to join the cast of Bravo’s reality show The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. If it were scripted, no one would believe it. 

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.