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Sumner Redstone: Philippe Dauman Has ‘Done a Bad Job Running Viacom’

Sumner Redstone is still closely watching Viacom’s stock and thinks CEO Philippe Dauman has done a “bad job” running the company, according to a statement from his camp Thursday evening.

Redstone gave his opinions during examinations by Dr. James Spar, a geriatric psychiatrist, on May 20 and May 24. According to the statement, Spar found Redstone to be “well dressed and groomed, alert and in no distress.” Spar said that Redstone emphasized that “he makes all the decisions about Viacom and CBS.”

Redstone’s mental capacity is at the heart of a looming confrontation between the aging billionaire and his daughter Shari, on one side, and Dauman and his allies on the Viacom board on the other. Dauman asserts that Shari Redstone is taking advantage of her father’s frail health to seize control of his companies.

Redstone’s camp is seeking to show that the 93-year-old is still in full command of his faculties. At the May 24 examination, Spar asked Redstone why he’d removed Dauman and George Abrams from the board of National Amusements Inc., which owns 80% of the voting stock of Viacom and CBS. Dauman and Abrams have sued in Massachusetts to overturn that decision, and Spar’s opinion seems likely to be used in Redstone’s defense.

“He said, ‘He’s done a bad job running Viacom.’ I asked the same question about Mr. Abrams, and Mr. Redstone said, ‘He’s not listening to me,'” Spar wrote.

Redstone also said he had noted that Viacom’s stock had declined “significantly” over the past year, though he noted it increased after he removed Dauman and Abrams from the National Amusements board and from his family trust. According to Spar, Redstone also expressed “emphatic disapproval” of Dauman’s efforts to sell a minority stake in Paramount Pictures, which he referred to as “his baby.”

“Mr. Redstone said that he had clearly expressed his feelings about the Paramount sale to both Mr. Dauman and Mr. Abrams, but in his view they ignored his wishes,” Spar wrote.

Spar concluded that Redstone suffers only a “mild degree” of mental impairment and “retains the legal mental capacity” to make business decisions.

On Monday, the six independent directors of Viacom’s board vowed to fight any effort to remove them.

Update: Dauman and Abrams fire back. In a statement, attorney Les Fagen argues that Redstone’s remarks are the product of “manipulation” and calls for a “complete and objective examination” of Redstone to determine if he’s fully in control. Fagen also notes that “as yet there is no Paramount deal to oppose.” “Such a deal if it matures will be the subject of evaluation and review by all Board members.”

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