A probate judge on Monday appointed an independent legal guardian to represent Sumner Redstone, finding he is incapable of representing his interests in a trust battle with his former companion.
Redstone, the chairman of National Amusements, Inc., is 95 and suffers from severe speech impairment and diminished mental faculties. Judge David Cowan appointed probate attorney Samuel Ingham to serve as Redstone’s guardian ad litem.
“I think it’s a long time coming,” Cowan said. “I’m surprised nobody brought it sooner.”
The trust battle between Redstone and ex-companion Manuela Herzer is headed to trial on Jan. 14. The two sides are fighting over a 2015 amendment to Redstone’s trust, which removed Herzer as one of his heirs. Herzer’s attorneys argue that Redstone lacked the mental capacity to understand what was happening.
Herzer’s attorneys asked the judge to order an independent medical examination of Redstone before the trial. Cowan rejected that request on Monday, saying that Redstone’s current mental state has no bearing on his faculties at the time of the 2015 amendment.
Redstone’s attorneys and attorneys for his grandson, Tyler Korff, had asked for the appointment of a legal guardian at the urging of the judge. Herzer’s attorneys have argued that Redstone’s daughter, Shari, is directing the litigation behind the scenes. Cowan had earlier said that appointing a legal guardian, who would direct the litigation on Redstone’s behalf, would safeguard the case from an appeal on that issue.
Korff’s attorneys requested the guardian on the basis of Redstone’s limited ability to communicate, not due to any mental incapacity. The judge was careful to note that he was making the appointment on those grounds, and was not ruling on Redstone’s mental capacity.
Ingham is a veteran probate attorney who served as a court-appointed conservator for Britney Spears.
Redstone’s lead attorney, Rob Klieger, said outside court that the appointment would have no effect on Redstone’s chairmanship of National Amusements, which controls CBS and Viacom. The company’s trust documents contain a provision that would turn the company over to a board of trustees if Redstone is found to be incapacitated.
“It has zero implications outside of this case,” Klieger said.