Sumner Redstone Asks Court to Deny Philippe Dauman’s Challenge to Removal From Trust

Sumner Redstone Philippe Dauman
Rex Shuttertsock

Sumner Redstone has formally asked a Massachusetts court to deny Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman’s request for an expedited trial on the issue of Dauman’s removal from the Redstone family trust.

Attorney’s for Redstone filed the response to Dauman’s legal action in a probate court in Canton, Mass. on Friday. A hearing on Dauman’s motion in his suit challenging his removal from the board of the Redstone family trust and Redstone’s National Amusements holding company is set for Tuesday.

The filing also asks that the venue for the legal fight be switched from Massachusetts, where the Redstone trust is incorporated, to California, where Redstone lives. The filing urges that the case be transferred to Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Cowan, who ruled in Redstone’s favor last month on a separate case involving former Redstone companion Manuela Herzer.

The legal filings blast Dauman and George Abrams, who was also removed as a director of the trust and of National Amusements, as being motivated by self interest. Dauman and Abrams have said that Redstone is being manipulated by his daughter, Shari Redstone, who is manipulating her ailing father into actions that he would not otherwise have taken against his longtime confidants.

Redstone’s filing asserts that Dauman and Abrams went to court to protect their own financial interests and employment at Viacom, where both are also directors.

Les Fagen, attorney for Dauman and Abrams asserted that there were still “many undisclosed facts” to emerge about the conduct of Shari Redstone and her reps.

Dauman and Abrams’ legal battle is “part of an acutely self-interested legal strategy that they began plotting months earlier to secure their tenuous positions with Viacom,” the filing states.

“Even their own papers filed today reveal that the Trustees as stated in the affidavits have not seen Sumner for as long as ‘many years,’ ” Fagen said. “We look forward to a full hearing on Tuesday when we will seek expedited discovery and an independent review of the facts in order to resolve this matter as quickly as possible.”

Redstone’s attorneys claim that Dauman knew he was in danger of ouster at Viacom because of the stock’s poor performance over the last year. In February, according to the motion, Dauman and Abrams got legal advice on how to contest Redstone’s mental capacity in the event that they were removed. Since then, the filing states, Dauman and Abrams have disregarded Redstone’s authority, public pursuing a sale of a minority stake in Paramount Pictures in spite of Redstone’s vocal opposition.

“Plaintiffs therefore felt no compunction acting against Sumner’s wishes,” the motion states. “They unceremoniously removed him as Viacom’s Chairperson. They shrugged off Sumner’s opposition to their shopping Paramount. They ignored his requests for information regarding a potential Paramount transaction, as well as long-term strategic plans (if any) for Viacom as a whole. In short, Plaintiffs treated Sumner as though he was already gone.”

Redstone’s filing includes supplemental statements from a geriatric expert who maintains that the elder Redstone does have sufficient mental capacity to make decisions about the trust, National Amusements and the management of Viacom. The expert, Dr. James Spar, reported that Redstone believes that Dauman is “doing a bad job at Viacom.”

The battle over control of Redstone’s empire has been raging for a year, but has turned into a Shari Redstone vs. Philippe Dauman battle royale in the past few weeks. Dauman and Abrams were removed from the boards of the trust and National Amusements last month.

The filing also notes that a majority of the seven Redstone trustees have ratified the removal of Dauman and Abrams, which attorneys assert mean that the removal of the two would be legal even if Redstone were deemed incapacitated.