The already complex collection of lawsuits to determine the fate of Sumner Redstone’s media empire just became a little more complicated.
His granddaughter Keryn — daughter of his estranged son, Brent — just filed her own suit against Shari Redstone at Massachusetts Probate and Family Court. The complaint charges that Sumner’s daughter used “lies, intimidation, fraud, manipulation, and feigned affection” to entice the 93-year-old to “abandon decades of his thoughtful succession plan” allowing Shari to seize “the reins of power of her father’s Trust, holding company, and Viacom, Inc.”
The suit asks the court to invalidate Redstone’s May 20 effort to replace Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman and director George Abrams on the family trust and the board of his National Amusements (NAI) — which owns 80% of the voting shares of Viacom and CBS.
It calls on the judge to add Keryn to the seven member trust that will vote Sumner’s controlling stake in NAI when he’s deemed unable to do so. Sumner removed Keryn in 2012, allegedly after Shari and Redstone family confidant David Andelman “relayed false information to Sumner” about Keryn’s involvement in a family dispute.
Keryn also wants reinstated a $6 million bequest to her from the trust, which she says Shari induced Sumner to withdraw.
Keryn had previously supported Dauman and Abrams’ suit in Massachusetts seeking to let them stay on the trust and NAI board. They also say that Shari — who runs NAI and is Vice Chair of Viacom and CBS — manipulated Sumner, who they allege in unable to make his own decisions.
Shari Redstone and lawyers representing Sumner Redstone have denied the charges, and say that he is still calling the shots at his empire. The Massachusetts court plans to hear the case in October.
In a separate case, Delaware’s Chancery Court is weighing Viacom’s challenge to an effort by NAI to replace five of the entertainment company’s directors, including Dauman.
Keryn’s new lawsuit says that she and Sumner’s former companion Manuela Herzer acted as “firewalls protecting Sumner from opportunists like Shari.”
But as the mogul’s mental acuity faded, “Shari orchestrated Manuela’s ouster through a series of actions intended to brainwash the enfeebled Sumner to eliminate his long-time friend from any role in his life, healthcare, and estate plan.”
Keryn’s lawyer, Pierce O’Donnell, also represented Herzer in a California case seeking to have her reinstated as Sumner Redstone’s caretaker. The judge dismissed the case in May.
After Herzer was removed, Redstone became “a fading shadow of a once proud, fearless Hercules of Hollywood,” the new suit alleges.
It also charges that Shari’s “hatred of Keryn” led Redstone’s daughter to induce him to “write Keryn out of his personal trust and remove her $6 million bequest….Sumner’s nurses and household staff, doctors and lawyers were marching to the beat of Shari’s drum. All that Sumner knew —to the extent he could comprehend —was what Shari told him. Sumner –and the truth –never had a chance.”