Once again, the health of Sumner Redstone is at the center of a bitterly fought lawsuit. But unlike when the 95-year-old media mogul’s companions and family were up in arms over his succession ideas, the stakes are much higher in the war between CBS and National Amusements.
“To the extent the CBS Parties wanted to document Mr. Redstone’s physical condition, they separately submitted an affidavit from Mr. Redstone’s treating physician that discussed Mr. Redstone’s medical condition in detail,” wrote attorneys for the Redstones-ruled NAI in a motion today to flush potentially pivotal footage filmed earlier this year of the now little-seen CBS chairman emeritus out of the lawsuit CBS filed May 14.
“The submission of the Kopelson video was thus revealed as a gratuitous effort to harass or embarrass an elderly gentleman and his family,” the motion (read it here) from Delaware’s Potter Anderson & Corroon LLP adds of the January 2018 footage shot by CBS board member Arnold Kopelson.
The implications of the video are irrelelvant, says NAI, which insists that Redstone understood the verification of interrogatory responses that he signed this year in the case. “As counsel for the NAI Parties has advised counsel for the CBS Parties, Mr. Klieger read the responses to Mr. Redstone, who then signed the verification,” NAI attorneys say of Shari Redstone’s lawyer and CBS board member Robert Klieger.
It should be noted that Redstone ally Klieger now occupies one of the seats on the special committee designated by the CBS board to oversee the investigation of sexual misconduct allegations by CEO Les Moonves and the overall culture at the media company.
The moves to fight NAI to include the video, or get the once-dominating media mogul to directly sit for a formal deposition, is part of a seemingly long-game strategy by CBS in its wrestling match with controlling shareholder NAI over corporate control and a possible reunion with Viacom. With many pieces in play, CBS appears set on putting Shari Redstone in the antagonist’s position.
Despite 2016 NAI bylaw changes that ostensively reduced the power of Sumner Redstone’s vote on the holding company’s board, the mogul still holds the power to deep-six the board and put new players in if he or his direct representative wanted to. With that in mind, CBS has sought to dilute the Redstone family’s control over the company and board members by issuing shares of stock to those who now hold non-voting shares. Now a focus of the wide-ranging Delaware-set lawsuit, National Amusements changed its own bylaws to neuter CBS’ shift, a move that CBS has called invalid.
In that context, the attempt by CBS to force what they believe the young Redstone’s true role and intentions are was made clear in the the July 31 filing, which demands that either the elder Redstone sits down with lawyers, or his augmented or potentially crafted POV be disregarded.
“There can be no substitute for Mr. Redstone’s own testimony to establish NAI’s actual intentions—past, present, and future—with respect to NAI and CBS,” says the latter, further proposing that “Mr. Redstone is NAI …and NAI is Mr. Redstone.” Based on the video attached to the filing, CBS contends that the rarely seen or heard Sumner is “incapable of communicating his views on this case.”
“Putting aside the lack of any need for the Court to decide the admissibility of any evidence now, their argument is baseless,” NAI’s lawyers say of CBS in a separate and noticeably redacted filing Tuesday (read it here).
CBS had no comment on today’s filings by Redstone reps.
To add more spice to the pot, CBS made a filing of its own Tuesday seeking information on a recently revealed 2016 meeting between AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and Shari Redstone that discussed the now-Time Warner-owning media giant bidding for the company.
Back to the Redstone video, in this latest front in the CBS vs. NAI war, NAI is also pressing to have the material filmed at the elder Redstone’s L.A. estate by his former pal Kopelson kept well out of the public eye if they can’t get it dismissed altogether.
“The harm that public disclosure of the Kopelson video would cause to Mr. Redstone’s personal privacy and dignity far outweighs any public interest in disseminating a video of a vulnerable nonagenarian taken in his home without his consent,” Tuesday’s filing in Delaware’s Court of Chancery declared, as a request from the Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal seeks to have the video revealed.
“According to Mr. Kopelson, the video was taken, at least in part, to document Mr. Redstone’s medical condition,” the motion continues about the board member who alleges Shari Redstone aimed to have him booted off the CBS ruling body, to add more intrigue. “Delaware law protects medical records as confidential,” says the Redstones and NAI lawyers. “It follows that a video, recorded in Mr. Redstone’s private residence, without his consent and designed to show his medical condition, is properly the subject of continued Confidential Treatment.”
Tellingly, CBS at least agrees with NAI that the video should remain confidential, for now.
“Counsel for the NAI Parties requested that the CBS Parties withdraw the video exhibit, in light of the request to make the video public,” Camp Redstone said today. “The CBS Parties’ refusal to do so only calls into question their statements and purpose in submitting the video in the first place,” in a stab of their own.
Everyone has their knives out in this one, as NAI lawyers made evident when they said in a footnote today: “Mr. Redstone continues to reserve all rights against Mr. Kopelson and the other CBS Parties for taking the video in the first instance without his consent and in violation of law and for the further dissemination of the unauthorized and illegal video recording.”