Hollywood and Wall Street have long wondered how much Sumner Redstone really knows about what is being done and said in his name. Now, thanks to an irate filing Monday by lawyers for the rarely seen 95-year-old media mogul and the legal tenacity of his former companion Manula Herzer, by the end of the week we might know whether we will finally get a glimpse at the real capacity of the elder Redstone.
“Although Herzer has no legal entitlement to the evidentiary hearing and capacity
determination she requests in her motion, this sideshow must end,” Redstone attorney Robert Klieger said in an amended opposition filing in Los Angeles Superior Court, noting the August 21 motion from Herzer’s side (read it here).
“For that reason, if the Court is so inclined, Redstone does not object to Herzer’s request for discovery and an evidentiary hearing on Redstone’s capacity, so long as his health, dignity, and constitutional privacy rights are protected in the process,” the 11-page paperwork asserted. It is the latest swivel in Herzer’s very bumpy three-year pursuit of a reinstatement of her role in the Viacom chief’s trust.
With a direct deposition of Redstone off the table but a January 2018 video shot by CBS board member Arnold Kopelson very much in play, the parties will gather in downtown Los Angeles on Thursday for a hearing on the discovery motion before L.A. Superior Court Judge David Cowan. Having tossed more than his fair share of this pursuit out over the past three years, Cowan may be familiar to some.
“Once the Court has heard from Redstone’s physicians, nurses, and whatever other witnesses Herzer may wish to present, and has considered whatever medical records, iPhone videos, or other evidence she may wish to submit, the Court can determine whether Redstone’s infirmities have advanced to the point that he is legally incapacitated,” the mogul’s attorneys argue. “Herzer will have what she wants, and the case can then, finally, proceed to trial under either Redstone’s continuing direction or, should he be found incapacitated, that of his agent.”
When the busy Klieger, who is also a CBS board member and defendant in the Les Moonves-run media company’s legal battle with National Amusements Inc over corporate control and possible merger with Viacom, says “agent,” he actually means Shari Redstone. That fact has Herzer’s side clapping for joy.
“Sumner Redstone has never had Shari Redstone be his power of attorney for litigation his entire life,” Herzer’s primary attorney Ronald Richards told Deadline on Monday. “Yet, now, when the agency relationship with his attorneys is being challenged, Redstone’s legal team has provided Plan B, Shari will take over,” the lawyer added, in response to latest filing by the team of Redstone attorneys from Hueston Hennigan LLP and Loeb & Loeb LLP.
“The fact that they have conceded the merits of the motion is because the law is correct and not previously placed before the Court. Their alternative would have been to argue against binding authority,” Richards said.
“At some point, the curtain must be withdrawn to see the wizard.”
“If Court is to have any meaning of fairness, the current competency will be evaluated with evidence and if Shari Redstone can keep this alleged façade going that Sumner is calling the shots, she will have to do with admissible evidence and not behind assertions of illness, privacy, or concealment,” the Beverly Hills based Richards declared. “Getting to the truth and maintaining Sumner’s dignity are not in conflict and we look forward to professionally establishing the facts necessary to shatter his current counsel’s purported agency.”
What could also be shattered, if the elder Redstone is found to be lacking basic capacity in this case, is one of the defense pillars of the CBS dustup with NAI in the Delaware courts. That could have far-reaching impact beyond jilted lovers.