In the looming legal war for control of Viacom, CEO Philippe Dauman has asked a Massachusetts judge to speed up his review of Sumner Redstone’s mental competency to change leadership of the corporation. Any delay will only play into the hands of Redstone’s daughter, Shari, Dauman contended in legal papers filed Friday.
“A delay would provide defendant Shari Redstone with further opportunity to attempt to shift the controversy in this case to another forum,” Dauman’s filing contends, “or, worse, to take over Viacom with impunity before this Court has even determined whether Mr. Redstone was and is competent to make the decisions ascribed to him.”
Dauman’s lawyers asked probate and family court Judge George Phelan to speed up discovery in the case, including an examination of the 93-year-old Redstone. The judge previously set June 30 for the next hearing in the case, but the Viacom CEO said lawyers need to be gathering evidence in the case before then.
The move comes a day after the holding company that controls Viacom — Redstone’s National Amusements Inc. — moved to replace Dauman and four other directors of Viacom. The change is widely viewed as a precursor to the new board forcing out Dauman, the long-time Redstone confidant who the billionaire appears to have turned against in recent months.
“Those purportedly acting for Mr. Redstone have now used their unlawful takeover of the Trust and NAI [National Amusements] to try to affect the dismissal of five of Viacom’s 11 directors and to secure control of Viacom,” Dauman’s request to expedite the Massachusetts case says. He calls the new board “hand-selected by Shari.”
“If Shari Redstone succeeds in her efforts to secure control of the Viacom Board, she may well have prevailed in her goals before the facts concerning Sumner Redstone’s capacity can emerge and before this Court can address the issues in this case,” the motion continues.
Shari Redstone’s camp contends that she has only supported her father’s actions and denied that she is driving the changes at Viacom. Her spokesperson did not immediately comment on Dauman’s latest action.