A Massachusetts judge heard more than two hours of arguments on Tuesday related to the raging battle for control of Sumner Redstone’s $40 billion media empire. But the judge opted not to issue an immediate ruling on the request by Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman for an expedited trial in his suit challenging his removal from the board of the Redstone family trust and Redstone’s National Amusements holding company.
Judge George Phelan of Norfolk County Probate Court in Canton, Mass., ended the morning hearing by saying he would take the arguments under advisement, according to a representative for Redstone. There was no indication when Phelan would make a decision on Dauman’s request other than that it would likely be sometime this month. Phelan also said he would aim to rule by the end of this month on the motion by Redstone’s daughter, Shari Redstone, to dismiss Dauman’s case.
The scene was highly unusual for the suburban Boston courtroom, with some 22 lawyers turning out to represent both sides in the case. Also on hand, according to local media reports, were Len Lewin and Norman Jacobs, two of the seven trustees who are slated to oversee the Redstone family trust after the death of the 93-year-old mogul. Dauman and fellow Viacom board member George Abrams sued last month after they were removed from the trust and the board of National Amusements, which houses Redstone’s controlling stakes in Viacom and CBS Corp.
At the hearing, lawyers for Dauman stressed that the Viacom CEO and George Abrams were among Redstone’s closest confidants for decades. The suit asserts that Sumner Redstone is being manipulated by Shari Redstone, who is seeking control of her father’s formidable assets. Dauman and Abrams have asked for an immediate medical exam of Redstone to determine his level of mental competency. In court, Dauman attorney asserted that he was “holding onto life by a thread.”
Redstone’s lawyers responded by noting that Dauman vouched for Redstone’s abilities just six months ago in a case brought by former Redstone companion Manuela Herzer, which was dismissed last month by a Los Angeles judge.
Redstone’s lawyers asserted that the mogul’s health was improving. They acknowledged that he has a severe speech impediment but noted that he is able to articulate certain vulgarities when angered.
Redstone’s side has asked that the venue for Dauman’s case be shifted to California, where Redstone now lives, rather than Massachusetts where the trust is incorporated.