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Philippe Dauman Pushes for Immediate Mental Health Exam of Sumner Redstone

UPDATED: Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman is pushing for an immediate medical exam of Sumner Redstone, as the two longtime allies continue to battle over control of the entertainment conglomerate.

Dauman made a motion to a Massachusetts family and probate judge “because Mr. Redstone’s mental condition is ‘in controversy’ and good cause exists for ordering an examination in light of, among other things, the lack of equivalent alternative evidence of Mr. Redstone’s mental condition.”

Redstone’s representatives have previously opposed an examination, saying that the mogul’s doctors  have confirmed, on multiple occasions, that he remains clear-headed, despite multiple health challenges and some cognitive impairment.

Dauman made his motion along with George Abrams. Both men had been Redstone confidants for decades, but on May 20 were suddenly removed both from the board and trust  of National Amusements Inc. The board currently controls Redstone majority voting interest in both Viacom and CBS Corp. The trust will take control of the Viacom and CBS shares when the 93-year-old magnate dies, or if he is deemed mentally incapacitated.

The two long-time advisers urged Judge George Phelan to order the mental exam immediately, to prevent Redstone’s daughter, Shari, from completing her purported scheme to take over Viacom. The plaintiffs say the 93-year-old magnate did not have the mental capacity to understand the significance of removing them from the National Amusements panels. They also contend that Shari Redstone took control of her father’s life and isolated him from allies to impose her will over him.

Shari Redstone’s representatives have called those claims “preposterous” and noted that she already turned down a chance this year to be named non-executive chair of both Viacom and CBS. The 62-year-old daughter said she merely wants to support her father and to restore good corporate governance at Viacom, whose stock has declined sharply over the last year.

Redstone’s representatives declined to comment Thursday. People close to the magnate and his daughter have argued that the entire fight over mental competency is effectively moot, because a majority of members of the National Amusements board also approved the ouster of Dauman and Abrams. Even without Redstone’s consent, the majority vote would mean Dauman and Abrams would be out. With two new members seated, the National Amusements panel, in turn, ousted five members of the Viacom board. That is viewed as a precursor to firing Dauman as CEO.

Dauman and Abrams’ brief Thursday was not subtle in trying to persuade the Boston-area judge about the major stakes at hand. It repeatedly described the opposition only as “those purporting to act of behalf of Mr. Redstone and said they have “orchestrated one of the most incredible and audacious corporate takeovers in the history of American business.”

The idea that Redstone would have moved against two of his longest-serving business associates is made even more suspicious because of his “well documented physical and mental failings,” the motion said, adding: “Mr. Redstone can no longer eat, stand, walk, read, wrote or speak.”

The Dauman lawyers further urged the judge on by noting there were actions in California and Delaware courts that could “preempt” Phelan from making his own findings.

Dauman and Abrams also asked the judge to order that Redstone’s camp turn over all records on the billionaire’s mental status for the last six years, including those from his regular family physician and from two geriatric psychiatrists who have examined him as part of a running series of legal battles that began last November. The two men claimed that Dr. Stephen Read, a geriatric psychiatrist who has examined Redstone, has already made note of “significant impairments” and is “incapable of understanding and appreciating the consequences of his actions.”

There would be a fundamental unfairness to Dauman and Abrams, their lawyers argued, if they are not allowed access to the mental health records and a chance to have their own expert examine Redstone.

The next hearing in the Massachusetts case is set for June 30.

 

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