Attorneys for Sumner Redstone said Friday that they would ask a judge to appoint a legal guardian to represent the 95-year-old mogul in a long-running estate battle with his former companion.
Redstone has been fighting with Manuela Herzer over his efforts to remove her from his trust, thus depriving her of a substantial inheritance. Herzer’s attorneys argue that Redstone does not have the mental capacity to direct the litigation, and allege that Redstone’s daughter Shari is running the case behind the scenes. They have asked Judge David Cowan to order a medical examination of Redstone.
In court on Friday, Cowan suggested to Redstone’s attorneys that the time had come to appoint a guardian ad litem. The guardian would be an independent attorney selected by the court to look out for Redstone’s interests, and would act on his behalf. Asking for a guardian would be an admission that Redstone can no longer effectively represent his own interests in the case.
Robert Klieger, Redstone’s lead attorney, said he would make such a motion next week. Redstone is unable to speak, and communicates through an iPad. Klieger has said that he is able to communicate with Redstone, but he acknowledged that appointing a guardian ad litem would help prevent future second-guessing of his legal tactics in the case.
“His communication isn’t great,” Klieger said. “It gives protection to counsel.”
The move has potential consequences for Redstone’s business empire. Redstone remains CEO and chairman of National Amusements, Inc., which is the controlling owner of Viacom and CBS. Shari Redstone is president of NAI and a director. Should Sumner Redstone be found to lack capacity, control of National Amusements would formally pass to the trustees of his trust, who include Shari Redstone and her son Tyler Korff.
Herzer’s attorney, Ronald Richards, has argued that the case should be dismissed because Redstone did not have the capacity to file it in the first place. Redstone sued to confirm an amendment to his trust, which removed Herzer as a beneficiary. Richards filed a separate motion for summary judgment on the case, which Cowan denied on Friday. Redstone has filed another suit accusing Herzer of elder abuse and of swindling him out of tens of millions of dollars in gifts.
Cowan deferred Richards’ request for an independent exam until a hearing on Dec. 17.