Long-time Sumner Redstone companion Manuela Herzer has made good on her promise to appeal a Los Angeles judge’s decision to deny her bid to be re-installed as the media magnate’s ultimate health care overseer.
Comparing Redstone to King Lear and herself to the loving and wronged daughter Cordelia, Herzer asked Judge David J. Cowan to reverse his earlier rejection of her case and to grant her a new trial.
Herzer’s motion Monday said that new evidence has emerged to buttress her contention that Redstone’s daughter, Shari, manipulated her father to throw Herzer out of his home, as part of the younger Redstone’s alleged plot to take over his business empire.
Herzer’s accusations mirror those of Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman, who has gone to a Massachusetts court to fight his removal from the holding company that controls both Viacom and CBS Corp. Sumner Redstone is the controlling shareholder in both conglomerates.
With her filing Monday, the one-time Redstone girlfriend renewed her contention that she should not have been removed last October as the individual entitled to make decisions about Redstone’s care, because the billionaire was mentally incapacitated and unduly influenced.
If a new trial is granted, Herzer attorney Pierce O’Donnell said he would present evidence that Shari Redstone “has seized total control of her father’s household, life, health care, and business and legal affairs.” Among the examples of this, O’Donnell said, is the exclusion of granddaughter Keryn Redstone from visits with the 93-year-old Redstone and the isolation of Redstone from “his closest friends and business colleagues,” including Dauman and George Abrams, who served for decades as Redstone’s lawyer.
O’Donnell also would point to moves made by Redstone (allegedly pushed by his daughter) to prepare for a possible change in leadership at Viacom and to block the sale of a stake in Paramount Pictures, the beloved “baby” that Redstone’s camp has said he is loathe to see carved up, without a better justification from the corporation’s leaders. The corporate moves demonstrate “that Herzer was right all along about Shari’s thirst for power actuating her machinations.”
Shari Redstone’s representatives were not immediately available for comment. But they previously have depicted her as the aggrieved party, at the hands of Herzer and another one of her father’s former girlfriends, Sydney Holland. The two women long held sway over the frail and elderly Redstone and prevented him from seeing Shari and other family members, Shari’s representatives have said.
It was only late last year that Redstone came to realize that Herzer had kept him from seeing his family and another female companion. When he found out about those betrayals, he tossed Herzer out of his home. He also removed her as the person named in his advance health care directive — in charge of making medical decisions if the magnate was ever ruled mentally incapacitated. And Herzer was taken out of Redstone’s estate plan — costing her a future $50 million bequest and title to his mansion, valued at $20 million.
Herzer’s bid to be re-instated as health care agent came to trial in May. But Judge Cowan cut the trial short after watching videotaped testimony from Sumner Redstone. He repeatedly used an expletive to describe his ex-girlfriend and accused her of lying. Although his testimony was garbled by a speech impediment and the nonagenarian could not answer some basic questions, Cowan felt that he was clear enough about who he wanted overseeing his health care — Shari, not Herzer.
Cowan called Redstone “alert” and “composed” in his testimony and concluded: “There are no legal grounds not to follow his stated wishes.” The judge reached his conclusion without making a finding on Redstone’s mental capacity.
The appeal is only one action in the convoluted dispute. Herzer has also filed a lawsuit accusing Shari Redstone, her two sons and the household staff of conspiring to exclude her from Redstone’s life. She is seeking more than $100 million in damages in that case. And Sumner Redstone’s attorneys have countered by saying they would sue to recover some $150 million they claim Herzer and Holland received from Redstone over a five-year period.
Herzer’s motion for a new trial invokes Shakespeare, saying Judge Cowan previously cut short a story that greatly resembled Lear, with Shari Redstone as a composite of the conniving daughters, Goneril and Reagan. “Manuela Herzer was the wronged Cordelia who truly loved and cared about Lear,” the motion says, “and Redstone was Lear, blind to his daughter’s lies about Manuela.”