UPDATED with statement from counsel to Philippe Dauman and George Abrams below: A geriatric psychiatrist who examined Sumner Redstone twice in the past two weeks affirmed today that the executive “retains the legal mental capacity to make the decisions.” Dr. James Spar, a professor at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine who specializes in issues of capacity and undue influence, said Redstone told him that CEO Philippe Dauman “has done a bad job running Viacom” and that company director George Abrams “is not listening” to him.
“Mr. Redstone clearly communicated to me that he understood and appreciated the rights, duties, and responsibilities affected by those decisions; the probable consequences for himself and the other persons affected by the decisions, and the significant risks, benefits, and reasonable alternatives involved in those decisions,” Spar concluded after their two sessions. “Moreover, the changes he made seemed appropriate to me in light of recent events, and seemed to reflect his own, authentic wishes and preferences, and not the influence of any of the individuals in his environment.”
He noted that during their May 20 meeting, Redstone was “well dressed and groomed, alert and in no distress, and quite cooperative with the examination.
In his written evaluation of their May 24 sit-down, Spar — who has examined Redstone numerous times since 2014 — wrote: “I asked Mr. Redstone why he was removing Mr. Dauman as Trustee and Director, and he said, ‘He’s done a bad job running Viacom.’ I asked the same question about [Director George] Abrams, and Mr. Redstone said, ‘He’s not listening to me.’” The psychiatrist added that he had a follow-up talk with Redstone later on May 24. “Several times during this discussion Mr. Redstone reminded me that he makes all the decisions about Viacom and CBS. … Mr. Redstone emphatically indicated that he no longer trusts Mr. Dauman or Mr. Abrams.”
Spar added of the May 24 meeting with the exec, who turned 93 last week: “I asked Mr. Redstone to explain his belief that Mr. Dauman had ‘done a bad job running Viacom.’ He indicated that he had been following the value of Viacom stock over the past year, and knew that it had declined significantly. He spontaneously added that the value of the stock had gone up since his decisions about Mr. Dauman and Mr. Abrams had become public. Mr. Redstone was particularly displeased with Mr. Dauman’s decision (supported by Mr. Abrams) to sell part of Paramount Pictures (a company which Mr. Redstone acknowledged is “his baby”), and several times expressed his emphatic disapproval of that move. Mr. Redstone said that he had clearly expressed his feelings about the Paramount sale to both Mr. Dauman and Mr. Abrams, but in his view they ignored his wishes.”
Spar said he administered a Mini-Mental State Exam, a widely used test of cognitive functions, and determined that Redstone had only a “mild degree” of cognitive impairment, given his age and advanced education.
Naturally, counsel to Philippe Dauman and George Abrams disagreed with this assessment vociferously. “Once again Mr. Redstone is heard only through carefully crafted remarks distributed by his advisors,” said Les Fagen of Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton and Garrison. “This evaluation was conducted by a paid medical consultant and does not answer the question of whether Sumner Redstone had sufficient capacity to make complex decisions impacting the governance of billion dollar publicly-held corporations, nor does it acknowledge that undue influence was exercised to manipulate his views. It is clear more than ever that a complete and objective examination of Mr. Redstone will be required to answer these important questions. As for Dr. Spar’s report on Paramount, evidently neither the Dr. nor his patient understand that as yet there is no Paramount deal to oppose. Such a deal if it matures will be the subject of evaluation and review by all Board members.”