Updated with Redstone response: Viacom civil war ended with an agreement that led to Philippe Dauman’s exit last week as CEO. But the Battle of the Redstones continues with a court complaint today by Sumner Redstone’s granddaughter, Keryn.
Calling the settlement deal a “palace coup,” she wants the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court to provide for her to see the agreement that led Dauman and Viacom to withdraw two lawsuits charging that Redstone, 93, was not competent to manage his affairs and was being manipulated by his daughter, Shari.
Shari and Redstone-controlled National Amusements — which owns 80% of the voting shares in Viacom and CBS — vigorously denied the charges.
Keryn also wants to see a copy of Sumner Redstone’s family trust, which will benefit her and other grandchildren when he’s deemed unable to make rational decisions. The complaint says that her grandfather’s lawyer promised in June to provide a copy but “promptly reneged and produced only [a] heavily-redacted and in places, unintelligible” version.
Judge George Phelan agreed to hold a hearing on the motion this Friday.
But the Redstones and National Amusements asked him to simply hold a status conference, deferring any major decisions, saying that they plan to file a motion this week to dismiss Keryn’s request.
They question whether it “warrants the broad discovery [she] now seeks as the sole remaining party pursuing claims in this action.”
Keryn Redstone’s lawyers said today with an almost tabloid toned ex parte motion filed in Massachusetts (read it here) that the court “needs to know what did Sumner know, how was he informed about the settlement’s terms, did he appreciate its significance for his succession planning, and what was Shari’s role in this whole affair,” “The Settlement Agreement and an unredacted version of the Trust instrument are critical to that evaluation.”
It adds that Keryn believes “Shari has systematically maneuvered to gain physical and mental control of her enfeebled father in order to unduly influence him to replace his hand-picked Trustees with Trustees loyal only to her — cronies who will faithfully carry out Shari’s self-interested agenda in administering the Trust to the detriment of Keryn and other beneficiaries.”
Seeking an August 26 hearing, the paperwork from Boston’s Sherin and Lodgen LLP and L.A.’s Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger LLP challenges the perceived victory by Shari Redstone that last week. The settlement downgraded Dauman from CEO and Chair to non-Executive Chairman until September 13, when he’ll leave. It also affirmed his ouster from the Redstone family trust and the board of National Amusements. He’ll leave with a $72 million platinum parachute.
Having joined the war against her Aunt Shari earlier this summer, Keryn Redstone could still raise important questions about who does, or should, run Sumner’s $42 billion media empire.
“Inquiring minds want to—indeed, must—know—why Plaintiffs have joined hands with Shari and are singing Kumbaya,” Monday’s filing says. “With everyone but Keryn acquiescing in this abrupt termination of those issues, the Court needs to hear an independent voice to assist it in deciding whether to bless this settlement as being in the best interests of Sumner and the Trust beneficiaries,” the 9-page shot across the bow adds. “That lone voice is Sumner’s beloved granddaughter who—at great expense and personal risk— has sought to protect those interests amidst the jockeying for power and money of the other litigants.”
The settlement will become public once the parties put it before the court for approval but the younger Redstone wants to see it ASAP.
“Fundamental fairness requires that Keryn be given an opportunity to evaluate why Plaintiffs have done a complete about-face, to consider fully the settlement’s implications and its impact on Keryn’s status and entitlement as a beneficiary of the Trust, and to explore and, if necessary, challenge the purported acquiescence of a vulnerable mentally challenged Sumner in the settlement,” today’s filing notes with no small amount of purple in its prose.
The official response from Team Redstone will determine the next countermove.