UPDATED: Sumner Redstone has asked a Los Angeles court to affirm his action in ousting two of his long-time business associates from the board and trust that oversees his corporate empire.
The 92-year-old media baron’s petition Monday rejects contention that he was manipulated into booting Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman and Viacom board member George Abrams from his holding company, National Amusements, at the whim of his daughter, Shari. Instead, he moved the men out because of legitimate concerns about the conglomerate and how it will function after he is gone, his representatives contend.
“Mr. Redstone has been clear and unequivocal in his desire to remove Philippe Dauman and George Abrams as trustees,” attorney Robert N. Klieger said after filing the papers in Los Angeles Superior Court to validate the action. “Mr. Redstone is saddened that Mr. Dauman is trying to make this dispute about his daughter. This dispute is not about Shari Redstone. It is about Mr. Redstone’s right to have the individuals he wants and trusts managing his assets upon his death, and protecting the financial interests of his grandchildren.”
Klieger also noted that Dauman’s position in recent days — suggesting Redstone was mentally unfit to make an important change in corporate governance — was at odds with his earlier stance on Redstone’s mental health. “Mr. Dauman made this charge despite having never raised any questions regarding Petitioner’s capacity and despite having testified under oath six months ago at a time when petitioner’s cognitive ability was equivalent to (if not worse than) his cognitive ability on May 20 2016 that [Redstone] was ‘engaged, attentive and opinionated as ever.’ “
Redstone’s legal team additionally pointed out that the terms of the National Amusements Trust require three doctors have to independently find the billionaire mentally incapacitated, in order to remove him from authority over the trust. That has not occurred, according to the papers filed by Klieger.
A furor erupted in Redstone’s empire on Friday, when a lawyer for the billionaire faxed notices to Dauman and to Abrams, telling them that they would no longer serve as board members of National Amusements or on the seven-member trust that will govern the concern when Redstone is gone. National Amusement holds 80% of the voting shares in two conglomerates — Viacom and CBS Corp.
Dauman and Abrams earlier Monday filed a lawsuit of their own, claiming that Redstone never would have ousted them — after decades of loyalty and service — unless he was not of right mind or was under the influence of Shari Redstone. The younger Redstone is a 62-year-old lawyer who serves on the boards of both her father’s companies. She has long been known to have disdain for Viacom CEO Dauman.