Sumner Redstone’s former companion Manuela Herzer has won a small victory in her legal battle with the billionaire’s daughter, Shari Redstone, getting the court’s permission to file an unedited version of a racketeering suit that includes some potentially embarrassing admissions.
Herzer claims Shari Redstone conspired with her son, Tyler Korff, to expel Herzer from the 94-year-old Redstone’s life to further their “vengeful scheme” to assume control of the companies he had built, CBS and Viacom. The longtime companion said Sumner Redstone laid out clear succession plans to ensure the media companies would be professionally operated — not treated as family-owned businesses.
Shari Redstone admitted her father’s opposition to her plans to succeed him in a July 29, 2015, email to her son, noting, “Your grandfather says I will be chair over his dead body.”
The civil suit filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles claims Shari Redstone and Korff capitalized on Redstone’s hospitalization and failing health to unravel those plans and seize control of CBS and Viacom — and, in the process, sought to “systematically destroy” the relationships Sumner Redstone had built with those who knew his true intentions.
“With his diminishing physical and communicative capacities, Shari Redstone and her co-conspirators proceeded to exile those closest to Sumner – and especially plaintiff Manuela Herzer, who, as Sumner’s 20-year friend and confidante whom Sumner considered family and entrusted with his healthcare directive was by his side, at his request,” the suit alleges. “This involved, among other crimes, bribing the household staff and then collecting and strategically using private information to cause distrust and destroy Sumner’s long-term relationships with those that he trusted – at the expense of Sumner who suffered severe emotional distress at his weakest moment.”
The unedited version of the complaint alleges that, shortly after evicting Herzer from Sumner Redstone’s home, Shari Redstone set her plan in motion — sending her son an email on October 15, 2015, that said, “[I]t would be good if we could get him to undue [sic] all of the legal documents, letters and affidavits that he has done against me.”
Another new detail, in a letter written on September 29, 2014, to longtime friend, personal attorney and CBS director David Andelman, appears to show that Sumner Redstone harbored doubts his daughter’s ability to succeed him: “Recent dealings with my daughter, Shari, have caused me to believe even more strongly that she does not have the requisite business judgment and abilities to serve as Chair of Viacom or CBS.”
One piece of correspondence exposes the difficult relationship between father and daughter. In an email sent to several people, including her own mother, Phyllis Redstone, Shari states: “If my father wants me to drop dead he doesn’t need to do anything else. He has made how he feels about me perfectly clear.”
The unredacted version of Herzer’s complaint is here.