To the business world, last week’s legal settlement that replaced Philippe Dauman as CEO of Viacom with his long-time lieutenant, COO Thomas Dooley, brought an end to the long-running courtroom saga over Sumner Redstone’s corporate holdings.
But his granddaughter Keryn and his one-time lover and long-time companion Manuela Herzer continue to press demands in separate courtrooms, on opposite coasts — determined to get something more when the 93-year-old billionaire’s estate is settled.
The intrigue continues Friday in Massachusetts probate court, where Keryn tries to keep alive her claim: that her grandfather made changes to two of his trusts that were improperly forced on him by his daughter, Shari, who is Keryn’s aunt. As part of that effort, the grandchild wants a mental and physical exam of Sumner Redstone, along with a deposition. The granddaughter’s lawyers say she is keeping alive a case, settled by Dauman and her grandfather, to protect the trust in which she and other grandchildren are the ultimate beneficiaries.
Other parties in litigation that has sprawled across three states say that Keryn’s case is merely a ploy to help her friend and Sumner Redstone’s ex-girlfriend, Herzer, after she previously passed on a $30 million settlement offer in yet another piece of litigation. That offer came in the case of Herzer contesting her ejection as Redstone’s health care agent. Herzer has another lawsuit still alive in Los Angeles, attempting to have herself restored to Redstone’s estate, a position that could grant her $50 million in cash, along with Redstone’s $20 million Beverly Park mansion.
Lawyers who have settled the corporate side of the dispute are now accusing Herzer and Keryn Redstone — both represented by the firm of Greenberg, Glusker, Fields, Claman & Machtinger — of keeping their litigation alive to try to resurrect something approaching the big settlement that Herzer rejected before losing her first round in court in May.
Keryn Redstone’s motion to keep the case alive will be heard Friday morning by Massachusetts family and probate Judge George Phelan. The Redstone granddaughter is critical of Viacom’s Dauman for settling his dispute with Sumner Redstone, before the court fully probed his accusation that he had been pushed aside as a board member over the family’s holding company, National Amusements, because of undue influence by Shari Redstone.
“In short, no one (other than Keryn) seems to have any interest in overseeing the fair, just and equitable administration of the Trust,” her filing Thursday stated — referring to the trust that will oversee Redstone’s corporate holdings when he becomes incapacitated or dies. “Plaintiffs have turned a blind eye to the evidence of Sumner’s incapacity and Shari’s vicious undue influence that they denounced not so long ago.”
Keryn also accuses her grandfather’s legal team of being two-faced in its representations about him — saying he is vigorous and engaged when defending his business actions but feeble when it comes time to schedule a possible deposition. “The allegedly vibrant stamina, decision-making and comprehension that Counsel ascribe to Sumner, immediately disappears when it is time to take a deposition,” her papers say.
Prior to the settlement reached last week by other parties, the Massachusetts case was set for trial Sept. 19. Phelan will have to decide what, if any, of the case continues after the original plaintiffs — Dauman and fellow Viacom board member George Abrams — agreed to settle.
Herzer’s claim that her eventual inheritance from Redstone was unfairly denied survives in Los Angeles Superior Court. Lawyers for Redstone argue that it is premature to decide the case before the magnate’s death. But Herzer’s lawyers argue that their charges about Shari Redstone’s undue influence should be heard immediately. That question could be decided at a Sept. 7 hearing.
One of Herzer’s lawyers declined to comment on the claim that she almost bagged a $30 million settlement on her last foray into court, while acknowledging that a “significant” settlement was on the table. The 53-year-old Argentinian-born socialite became friends with Keryn Redstone, 34, when the two were helping care for Sumner Redstone at his mansion high above Beverly Hills.
“I think there has been a very broad misconception that once George [Abrams] and Philippe [Dauman] settled that this case was done,” said Ira Steinberg, one of the Greenburg Glusker lawyers representing both Keryn Redstone and Herzer. “The Viacom angle wraps up significantly, but the issues of the trust and inheritance remain.”