Philippe Dauman Clarifies Prior Statement on Sumner Redstone’s Mental Capacity

Philippe Dauman
Chelsea Lauren/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman moved Monday to clarify his seemingly inconsistent opinions about the mental capabilities of his long-time mentor and former corporate boss, Sumner Redstone.

A Dauman spokesman called it “outrageous” to cite the CEO’s opinion from last fall, that Redstone was “engaged, attentive and opinionated as ever,” in contrast to Dauman’s contention Friday that Redstone no longer had the mental capacity to make important decisions.

The Viacom CEO suggested that his opinion from last year was only a passing observation,  based on “two brief meetings,” that has been taken out of context and overblown. His new statement Monday said that his earlier observation did not speak to the more important issue in the raging contest for control of Viacom — that the company’s controlling shareholder, the 92-year-old Redstone, has fallen under the control of his daughter, Shari.

“Mr. Dauman never asserted that Mr. Redstone was free of undue influence; indeed his lawyers later stipulated that he was susceptible to undue influence,” Dauman’s spokesman said. “And Mr. Dauman never commented as to Mr. Redstone’s competence on any matter, at any time, much less his ability to make conclusive decisions about complex issues concerning large public companies.”

The question of Redstone’s mental capacity has come front and center in a mounting furor over control of his corporate empire, which includes CBS Corp. and Viacom. Redstone on Friday evening threw Dauman out as a board member of National Amusements, the holding company through which he controls Viacom and CBS. He also ejected Dauman and another Viacom board member, George Abrams, from the seven-member trust that will decide what happens to Redstone’s CBS and Viacom holdings when he dies.

Dauman on Monday went to a Massachusetts court in an attempt to reverse his ouster. He argued that Redstone “now lacks the capacity to have taken these steps.” Redstone’s lawyers countered with their own lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court Monday, attempting to validate the changes in the National Amusements Trust. Their action threw in Dauman’s face the positive statements he made about the magnate just months ago.

Dauman’s latest statement, in what has become an almost-hourly tit-for-tat, chastised the Redstone team for moving to validate his changes in California, saying that legal action amounted to “Shari’s attempt to run away from the Massachusetts courts and to deflect attention from the real issue: Whether our friend and colleague Sumner is under the undue influence of his daughter, surrounded by a web of unfamiliar lawyers and public relations firms that she directs.”