UPDATED: The relentless blood feud inside the Redstone family over control of its $40 billion media empire spiraled to new heights Tuesday, as Sumner Redstone’s granddaughter, Keryn, accused her aunt, Shari, of using treachery and emotional abuse to win a “no-holds-barred” game to take control of Viacom and CBS Corp.
The new lawsuit, replete with florid language and a handful of new specifics, calls Redstone’s only daughter “insecure, self‑absorbed, and remorseless” and says she “repaid [Redstone’s] contempt with unkindness, wrathful verbal and emotional abuse, and treachery.” It was filed by Keryn, the daughter of Sumner Redstone’s estranged son, Brent.
The lawsuit depicts the 93-year-old Redstone, once “the fearless Hercules of Hollywood,” as a cowering, helpless shell of his former self.
“The relationship between a father and daughter can be complicated even in the best of families,” begins the 31-page complaint, filed in Massachusetts probate court by Keryn’s lawyer, Pierce O’Donnell. Keryn goes on to demand her reinstatement as a trustee in the family trust which, among other things, once promised to pay her $6 million. Sumner Redstone revoked that bequest two years ago.
Shari Redstone’s spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment. In the past, the younger Redstone has depicted herself as looking out for her grandfather’s interests and trying to protect him from incompetent corporate officers, outsiders, and family members who are scheming to take control of some of the Redstone fortune.
The suit claims that the granddaughter loves her 93-year-old grandfather dearly and is injecting herself into the ongoing litigation in Massachusetts only to protect Sumner Redstone from his conniving daughter. “One of the cardinal tenets of Sumner’s succession planning is that Shari — whom he did not respect as a business woman and did not trust her ability or desire to commit to sound principles of corporate governance — would never succeed him or be able to wield control over these two public companies,” says Keryn Redstone’s lawsuit.
The suit calls Shari Redstone — a 62-year-old lawyer, investor, and Viacom corporate officer — a “thankless child” who is “intellectually and temperamentally unfit to lead two media conglomerates valued at over $40 billion.” The lawsuit cites, among many other pieces of anti-Shari evidence, a 2007 letter in which Sumner Redstone said “Shari does not have the requisite business judgment and abilities to serve as chairman of the three companies.” (The Redstone family patriarch was referring to Viacom, CBS, and to National Amusements Inc., the theater chain holding company that Redstone also uses as a vehicle to control Viacom and CBS Corp.)
The suit reads like a dime-store pulp novel, claiming that a vituperative Shari Redstone “bided her time, waiting for the day when the ravages of time would take their inevitable toll on her father’s mental and physical ability to protect himself from her guileful, well-laid stratagem.” It adds that Shari was able to perpetrate her scheme in part because her once razor-sharp father suffers from a major neurological disorder. “When father was no longer mentally capable of warding off her newfound protestations of filial love, daughter made her move with lightning speed and ruthless efficiency,” the suit contends.
The new filing by Keryn Redstone follows a lawsuit already pending in a family and probate court in a Boston suburb, where Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman and George Abrams, a member of the board of National Amusements, have asked a judge to overturn their ouster from the NAI board. The suit spares nothing in its attack on Shari Redstone, calling her, among many other things “vengeful” and “cynical,” and saying her scheming was “ruining Sumner’s legacy as a businessman and media titan.”
“Shari has systematically maneuvered to gain physical and mental control of her enfeebled father in order to unduly influence him to replace his hand-picked trustees with trustees loyal only to her,” the lawsuit contends. “These cronies will faithfully carry out Shari’s self-interested agenda in administering the trust to the detriment of Keryn and other beneficiaries.”
Keryn Redstone says she is asking the Massachusetts court to allow her back into the family business. “By this action, Keryn seeks to preserve and respect Sumner’s wishes, expressed when he had capacity, concerning the trust, NAI, and the management of his business empire after his death,” her lawsuit says. “Therefore, Keryn now seeks a declaration from the court that the removal and substitution of trustees of the trust, ostensibly by Sumner, but in reality by Shari, is invalid and that Dauman and Abrams remain serving as trustees.”
The granddaughter’s suit depicts her relationship with Sumner Redstone as a long and loving one that included “playing tennis, watching sports, vacationing, and just ‘hanging out,'” adding that the nonagenarian and his granddaughter “confided in each other, and their bond of love and trust was obvious to everyone — and particularly a resentful Shari.”
It was this “blind jealousy” that fueled Shari’s scheme to take over her father’s corporate empire, the suit contends. It quotes Sumner Redstone as once saying: “Shari is all about money, She can never have enough money.” Since her childhood, Keryn Redstone said her vengeful aunt had been making threats. “I will get your dad [Brent], and I will get your grandfather [Sumner], even if I have to hurt you to do it,” Shari Redstone allegedly told her niece.
Another part of her scheme to take control of her father was to remove his long-time companion from his home, Keryn Redstone asserted. Once Manuela Herzer was kicked out of the house in late 2015, Shari Redstone was free to carry out the rest of her plot, the lawsuit said. Her ultimate goal:full control of Viacom and CBS Corp.
Among the tactics Shari has used to control her father, the suit claims: hiring lawyers and public relations professionals to do her bidding in Sumner’s name and using Sumner’s money to pay for them, and disposing of NAI’s property, including the sale of the Boston Home Depot store in the West Roxbury neighborhood, a $40 million deal that disposed of the original drive-in movie location operated by the National Amusements theater chain. It is a property that Sumner, with all his wits about him, would have never sold, the lawsuit says.