Sunmer Redstone’s former companion and self-described caregiver Manuela Herzer may want back into the Viacom chairman’s “living ghost” of a life, but Redstone’s corporate right-hand man says the boss is still in good shape. In papers filed today in response to Herzer’s revealing petition of yesterday seeking a determination of Redstone’s faculties, Viacom president and CEO Philippe Dauman describes 92-year-old Redstone as “engaged and attentive.”
“Sumner and I spoke about business matters, including the upcoming Viacom board meeting,” the Viacom CEO says of his November 3 meeting with Redstone at his Los Angeles home. “Sumner asked me to send regards to various people, and I updated him on the regards others have asked me to pass along to him. We talked about the conference at which I would be speaking the following morning, and we reminisced about corporate history and personal matters.” Dauman says he found Redstone in as good shape mentally on his most recent visit, as he did the last time he saw him on October 8, with Herzer present. “On both occasions, he was engaged, attentive and opinionated as ever,” he adds.
Dauman’s declaration is important because not only has the guessing game over Redstone’s health and mental capacity become a frequent topic in media circles in recent months, but also because the Viacom CEO has now become the one to make health decisions for the company founder if Redstone is “unable.” That role was previously held by Herzer in a directive put in place September 3. She was removed from that responsibility not long after his estate attorney Leah Bishop removed her from Redstone’s home on October 12.
Represented by Bert Fields and Pierce O’Donnell at Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger LLP, Herzer claims that in the last year “Mr. Redstone began exhibiting signs of a discernible and accelerated mental decline.” She notes in her Tuesday filing in L.A. Superior Court (read it here) that the media mogul missed the 2015 Viacom and CBS annual shareholder meetings and doesn’t participate in quarterly conference calls for the companies. That’s “something which would have been unthinkable for him when he was in good health,” Herzer’s petition claims. To that end, she wants a court determination that “on October 16, 2015 Mr. Redstone lacked the requisite capacity to revoke the September 2015 Directive and remove Petitioner as his sole health care agent.”
“This application is all about Ms. Herzer’s personal financial agenda,” replied Redstone’s lawyers Gabrielle Vidal and Amy Koch today in filings (read here) rejecting the need for hearings in the next few weeks or further determinations in the matter. “Let’s be blunt. Ms. Herzer’s baseless demands and allegations are an attempt to take discovery in service of building a record for the post-death trust contest she intends to bring, and have nothing to do with any present (let alone urgent) concern for Mr. Redstone’s protection.”
“If Ms. Herzer wants to challenge Mr. Redstone’s estate plan, the very least she could do is wait until he dies,” the opposition filing adds.
As for Redstone’s primary corporate representative and now heath care agent, Dauman said at the end of his deposition affirming the Viacom chief’s capacity that he cares “deeply for Sumner and will do whatever is necessary to ensure that he continues to receive superior care.”