UPDATED: At the same time Shari Redstone injected herself Wednesday into the intrigue over the future of the twin entertainment giants controlled by her family — CBS and Viacom — the entertainment heir also moved to foreclose her father’s one-time girlfriend from continuing to play a role in his life.
Magnate Sumner Redstone has “flourished” and been happy ever since Manuela Herzer was pushed out of his life last October, daughter Shari contends in a declaration filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, as part of an ongoing legal dispute over the elder Redstone’s care. The declaration marks the first time Shari Redstone, 61, has publicly entered the emotional dispute over the care of her 92-year-old father.
Shari’s four-page statement to the court depicts a sometimes rocky relationship with her father that she says has been repaired in recent months, allowing her and her children to bond with Sumner Redstone (known as “Grumpy” to his grandchildren) and help assure that he receives proper medical care. That opportunity came only after the removal of Herzer, who the younger Redstone said had received $70 million in cash and assets from her father, Shari Redstone contends.
“Before October 2015, it seemed to me that my family was effectively prevented from having meaningful access to my father,” Shari wrote in the declaration, filed this week, “and Ms. Herzer (and/or another woman named Sydney Holland) made it clear that we were not welcome in my father’s home.”
The Redstone heir went on to describe how Herzer, 52, and Holland, 44 — another longtime Sumner Redstone live-in companion, until last year — monitored communications between daughter and father. “Once Ms. Herzer was out of my father’s life,” the declaration states, “my family and I were able to reunite with my father.” Shari, who lives in Boston, said she has spent 39 days with her father since the thaw and communicates with him frequently, by phone and Facetime, sometimes more than once a day.
The declaration to Judge David J. Cowan is meant to further arguments by the elder Redstone’s attorneys that Herzer was properly removed from his home and then terminated as his legal healthcare agent — the person assigned to make medical decisions in the event that he was deemed incapacitated. Girlfriend Holland had been removed previously from Redstone’s advanced health care directive, after it was reported she was having an affair with another man.
Herzer’s attorney, Pierce O’Donnell, said the Shari Redstone declaration “only increases my strong conviction that Mr. Redstone is the victim of extreme undue influence.” O’Donnell added: “I look forward to taking Shari Redstone’s deposition now that she has insinuated herself into this controversy.”
In a subsequent statement, O’Donnell described Shari’s declaration as “a fictional account of her relationship with her father” and that the daughter had waited for Sumner Redstone’s “weakest moment to manipulate him.”
Redstone’s spokesperson in the dispute did not respond to a request for comment. The media moguls lawyers have argued that he remains of sound mind and removed Herzer from his life of his own volition. They describe Herzer’s court action as an invasion of privacy; one designed as a first step toward trying to extract money from his estate.
O’Donnell rejected the claim that his client is a gold-digger. “The truth is that Manuela Herzer was a devoted, loyal and caring friend of Sumner Redstone for almost two decades,” the attorney said in his statement. “The attacks on her are baseless and transparent attempts to obfuscate the truth about Mr. Redstone’s tragic mental incapacity and manipulation.”
Herzer argued that Redstone was suffering dementia and did not have the mental capacity in October to properly remove her as his health care overseer; suggesting others forced the change, without the billionaire’s approval. A psychiatrist hired by the one-time companion went to Redstone’s home last Friday to examine the Viacom chairman, but the results were to remain confidential — only for the eyes of parties in the dispute, and Judge Cowan.
Cowan is set to rule at the end of February on Sumner Redstone’s motion to throw out Herzer’s case.
Shari Redstone says in her declaration that Herzer “received over $70 million in cash/assets from my father, since 2009.” The daughter said that Herzer’s lawsuit, seeking to resume oversight of Sumner Redstone’s care, “is causing my father tremendous stress and agitation.”
After the removal of Herzer, the court papers indicated Sumner Redstone asked that his daughter be added to his advance health care directive, telling others overseeing his care to consult with Shari “on all medical matters and to take into account her input as if she were acting with you as a joint health care agent.” The court filing includes a short typed note on Redstone’s letterhead, signed in his illegible scrawl.
“In the past, we have had very public disagreements over business matters [but] we have patched those up, and family has always been the most important thing to me,” Shari Redstone wrote to the court. She went on to describe the close bond between her children and the grandfather they call “Grumpy.” She said her son, 32-year-old Brandon Korff, lives just 15 minutes from his grandfather’s Beverly Park home and spends time there “regularly.” Along with her own increased visits in recent months, Shari Redstone depicted herself as ready to rush to her father’s side at a moment’s notice. “I have access to a private jet and can be at my father’s side quickly, when needed,” she wrote.
“Our family treasures this time together,” Shari said near the end of her statement, “and believes that my father, should be permitted to live the rest of his life in dignity, peace and happiness, surrounded by his family and friends.”