Manuela Herzer, the former companion of Viacom mogul Sumner Redstone, is still waging a legal battle for a piece of the 94-year-old’s estate, more than two years after she was thrown out of his house.
Herzer is also seeking to establish her version of the truth of her battle against Redstone’s daughter, Shari, who is now vice chairman of CBS and Viacom. Shari Redstone has accused her of elder abuse and sued for the return of tens of millions of dollars in gifts. Herzer, meanwhile, contends that Shari Redstone bribed and conspired with her father’s nurses in a plot to throw Herzer out.
On Wednesday, Herzer laid out the most detailed account of her allegations so far, filing an amended federal complaint that includes previously unreleased emails from Shari Redstone and others in her orbit. In effect, Herzer argues that Shari Redstone took advantage of her father’s deteriorating health to seize control of his companies against his expressed wishes.
Sumner and Shari Redstone had long been estranged. He had publicly stated that he did not want her to inherit control of his media empire, and said he would bar her from his funeral. But the two reconciled in the fall of 2015, after Herzer and Sydney Holland, another ex-companion, were evicted from his Beverly Park mansion. Herzer alleges that the reconciliation was a fraud, and that Sumner Redstone is now incapable of expressing his true wishes.
In July 2015, according to the complaint, Shari Redstone told her son Tyler Korff, that “your grandfather says I will be chair[woman] over his dead body.”
Just three months later, shortly after Herzer was evicted, she again wrote to Korff. This time, she allegedly set about reversing the various steps her father had taken to keep her walled off from his affairs.
“[I]t would be good if we could get him to undue [sic] all of the legal documents, letters and affidavits that he has done against me,” she wrote, according to the suit.
Redstone’s attorney, Robert Klieger, dismissed the claims in a statement to Variety.
“Ms. Herzer and her legion of lawyers have now brought the same fanciful claims in probate court (twice), California state court, New York state court, and federal district court,” he wrote. “Soon she’ll be left with nothing but Judge Judy and The People’s Court. We’ll save further comment for when the case is dismissed.”
As of June 2014, Shari and her father will still very much estranged. In an email to her son, she wrote, “My father deliver[ed] a message to me [t]hru his attorney that he understands my children are struggling and he doesn’t give a s— and he doesn’t care that everyone in Sidney [sic] and Manuela’s family including their parents and children are treated better and have an easier lifestyle [t]han my children[.]”
In January 2015, Sumner Redstone asked his daughter to sign a release waiving any legal action against Herzer and Holland. If she refused, he threatened to prevent her from his funeral. Shari refused, and wrote in an email to Korff that she would not “sign releases against the whores who will be grieving his loss.” “(T)here is absolutely nothing more to be said….EVER!!!!” she said. “(H)e thinks the threat of not being allowed to go to his funeral will motivate me.”
The suit alleges that Shari Redstone laid the groundwork to get rid of Holland and Herzer by recruiting her father’s nurses to eavesdrop on them. According to the suit, Shari Redstone offered to pay one of the nurses $9,000, or about a month’s salary, if he was fired for passing along information. Her son also gave the nurses gifts in order to secure their loyalty, Herzer alleges. The nurses then provided information about the goings on at the Beverly Park home that were passed on to PR consultants, the suit claims.
“Their goal was to collect personal information about Manuela Herzer and others – whether true or not — and then have Shari Redstone use her ‘pr machine’ to crush Herzer,” the suit states.
Once Herzer and Holland were evicted, she alleges that Shari Redstone drafted two letters, purportedly from Sumner Redstone, granting herself control over her father’s affairs.
“I know I have asked you to help me return everything to the way it was before Sydney and Manuela entered my life,” he said in one of the letters.
Herzer alleges that by this point, Sumner Redstone was incapable of communicating beyond simple grunts.
In 2016, Judge David J. Cowan rejected Herzer’s bid to take control of Redstone’s medical decisions, ruling that Redstone clearly preferred that Shari Redstone should have control of his affairs. In a deposition for that case — the last time he has spoken publicly — Sumner Redstone referred to Herzer as “a f—ing bitch.”
Subsequently, Shari and Sumner Redstone ousted Philippe Dauman as CEO of Viacom. Shari Redstone has recently been pushing for a merger of Viacom and CBS.