Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman hopes that National Amusements’ move yesterday to replace five Viacom directors will light a fire under the Massachusetts judge weighing a case about Sumner Redstone’s competence.
Dauman says that Redstone, 93, is not capable of running his media empire — and is being manipulated by his daughter Shari, who’s President of National Amusements and Vice Chair of Viacom and CBS.
“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,” Dauman’s lawyers said today in a filing at the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court.
Dauman specifically wants the judge to approve expedited discovery in the case before June 30, when he’ll have a hearing on the Redstone camp’s motion to dismiss. The Massachusetts dispute involves the May 20 notice by Redstone’s lawyers that Dauman and Viacom director George Abrams had been fired from the family trust, and the board of National Amusements — which controls 80% of the votes at Viacom and CBS.
“Given the rapid pace of these developments, it is critical that the Court allow discovery to proceed in parallel with the motion to dismiss briefing so that the matter may be resolved as quickly as possible,” today’s filing says.
A delay would give Shari “further opportunity to attempt to shift the controversy in this case to another forum 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 adds that the Viacom board members to be replaced, including him, “have served…for years with great distinction.” They’ll be replaced by “persons hand-selected by Shari Redstone” that is “in continuing contravention of the longstanding succession plans established by Mr. Redstone.”
Redstone’s side has asked a court in California, where he lives, to ratify his ability to call the shots. It also says that the Massachusetts case is unnecessary because a majority of the trust and the National Amusements board have voted to replace Dauman and Abrams.