UPDATE with statements from Herzer and Holland: Sumner Redstone, the 93-year-old media icon, has filed an elder abuse lawsuit against two of his former caregivers, claiming that they “commandeered” his life and “abused their positions of trust” by accepting more than $150 million in “gifts” from the ailing tycoon. Now he wants the money back, according to a fraud and breach of fiduciary lawsuit (read it here) filed by his attorneys today in Los Angeles Superior Court.
“In the waning years of Redstone’s life, as his physical health declined and he became dependent on others for his care and sustenance, Redstone fell victim to financial and emotional abuse at the hands of two women many years his younger, defendants Manuela Herzer and Sydney Holland,” the suit claims.
Attorneys for both Herzer and Holland denied the allegations put forth in the suit (read their statements below). Herzer’s attorney Ronald Richard said it “has no merit whatsoever,” while Holland through a spokesperson called it “fictional revisionist history.”
Beginning in 2010, the suit states, “They moved into his home and assumed responsibility for his care. They isolated Redstone from his family and friends. They terminated his doctors, nurses, household staff, and longtime advisors and brought in handpicked replacements. They decided who came and went from the residence. They spoke for Redstone when he lost his ability to vocalize. Redstone entrusted Holland and Herzer with all aspects of his personal and financial affairs – essentially everything but his businesses.”
According to the lawsuit, they told him that his daughter and grandchildren “hated him and did not care enough to call or visit, while at the same time blocking their calls and instructing security not to allow them near the residence. Herzer and Holland explained to Redstone that they were the only ones who loved him and the only ones who would protect him, and that if they left, he would die alone. They manipulated and emotionally abused Redstone to get what they wanted – jewelry, designer clothing, real estate in Beverly Hills, New York, and Paris, and money, lots of it.”
The suit states that “By the time Redstone threw Herzer and Holland out of his home, and out of his life, last fall, they had taken him for more than $150 million and left him in debt on account of the immense tax obligations triggered by those ‘gifts.’ ”
But they took “far more” than his money, the suit claims. “They took five of the last years of his life. They took time away from his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. They took his pride and his dignity.”
The suit, however, only seeks to recoup the money.
Here’s Richard’s full statement:
“The lawsuit has no merit whatsoever. My client has a 20-year close personal relationship with Mr. Redstone that can’t be erased by the filing of civil complaint that lists incomplete, misleading, and false allegations. The lawsuit is an attempt to distract us from Ms. Herzer’s bona fide disinheritance claims against Sheri Redstone. Mr. Redstone had many checks and balances between attorneys, doctors, and accounting staff. These safeguards completely dismantle allegations that someone could manipulate him to gift away money. The contention is beyond nonsensical. Sumner Redstone has given numerous women, other than my client, millions of dollars of gifts and property over the years. Mr. Redstone’s current complaint places his long time attorney David Andelman, as well as a separate independent local firm of Loeb and Loeb – both whom provided independent certifications for the gifts – as adverse witnesses against him. All of the gifts Mr. Redstone made to my client and to Sydney Holland were made with his full knowledge and blessing. His actions were also approved by UCLA geriatric psychiatrist James Spar.”
And Holland’s statement, via spokesperson Sally Hofmeister:
“Doctors have testified twice in recent months that Sumner Redstone was of sound mind and, most recently, that he was mentally competent to make such critical and complex business decisions as orchestrating the departure of his long-serving chief executive at Viacom, changing its Board of Directors and, currently, exploring a merger between CBS and Viacom. This is directly contradicted by the claims in this lawsuit that state that Mr. Redstone’s physical and mental state were so impaired that he could be easily manipulated. Both cannot be true. The fact is, Mr. Redstone’s attorneys and doctors vetted and approved all payments to Ms. Holland. Out of respect and caring for Mr. Redstone, Ms. Holland has stayed out of the recent legal fray and did not assert claims that she has against Shari Redstone for spying on her and for other harm she has suffered. Ms. Holland will now be forced to publicly set out Shari and Sumner’s actions. To Shari Redstone’s chagrin, Mr. Redstone was fully competent and determined to live his life as he chose with Sydney Holland and included her in his will and in other documents that were vetted by his lawyers. Ms. Holland does not believe the claims in this lawsuit are Mr. Redstone’s sentiments, but rather are those of Shari Redstone. It is sad that Ms. Redstone is using her vendetta against Ms. Holland to destroy her father’s reputation and legacy as an entertainment industry visionary.”