Sumner Redstone’s lawyers just filed a petition (read it here) asking the Los Angeles County Superior Court to confirm the “the validity of his actions” Friday in ousting Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman and board member George Abrams from his family trust and the board of National Amusements.
That could set up a battle for jurisdiction: Dauman and Abrams filed a complaint this morning in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Probate and Family Court asking it to nullify the decisions “by an attorney claiming to represent Mr. Redstone.”
Redstone has the right to add and remove trustees of his trust unless he’s deemed “incapacitated.” If he is, then the seven-member body would control his 80% stake in National Amusements — which owns 80% of Viacom and CBS.
“Mr. Redstone has been clear and unequivocal in his desire to remove Philippe Dauman and George Abrams as trustees,” says Redstone lawyer Robert Klieger of Hueston Hennigan.
Dauman’s complaint this morning charges that Redstone is “clearly being manipulated by his daughter, Shari,” who is president of National Amusements and Vice Chair of Viacom and CBS. “Her singular goal is to assume complete control of his businesses, despite Mr. Redstone’s long-term desire for a professionally managed Trust and an independent Board of Directors. Shari’s actions amount to an unlawful corporate takeover, and if effectuated, could have far-reaching consequences for thousands of shareholders and employees of Viacom.”
In a statement with the court filing, Klieger says his client “is saddened that Mr. Dauman is trying to make this dispute about his daughter. This dispute is not about Shari Redstone. It is about Mr. Redstone’s right to have the individuals he wants and trusts managing his assets upon his death, and protecting the financial interests of his grandchildren.”
He adds that it’s “telling that Mr. Dauman is raising the question of mental capacity for the first time after he’s been removed when, just months ago in court documents, he pronounced Mr. Redstone ‘engaged, attentive, and as opinionated as ever.’”
Dauman made that statement following a November meeting with Redstone. His assertion that Redstone was able to govern his own affairs influenced a suit by the mogul’s former companion, Manuela Herzer, that challenged his competence to take away her authority to manage his health care — and give it instead to Dauman. (It since has been transferred to Shari Redstone.)
A Los Angeles judge this month decided that Redstone’s decision could stand.
Dauman says in today’s complaint that he “made no observations about Mr. Redstone’s capacity to make significant business decisions. And, indeed, Mr. Redstone’s health has rapidly declined since that time.”