Sumner Redstone: Sad New Claims and What's Next in the Fight

The mogul's ex paints a picture of Redstone in decline ("obsessed" with sex and steak, "a living ghost") in new court documents over who will care for him, while others deny the depiction ("engaged and attentive," says Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman).
Patrick McMullan
Redstone, Herzer (left) and Holland

“Vacant, expressionless and out of touch.” "A tragic figure in the waning days of an accomplished life." "A living ghost."

Those are some of the depictions of Sumner Redstone, the 92-year-old Viacom and CBS executive chairman, in court documents filed Wednesday by his ex Manuela Herzer in a heated new dispute over who would care for Redstone should his condition decline.

Herzer, who Redstone ejected from his home in October shortly after kicking out his other girlfriend Sydney Holland (the women organized a birthday bash for the mogul in May), seeks control of Redstone's care per the Advance Health Care Directive in which Redstone made her his "agent" in September 2015.

In the documents filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Herzer says Redstone "lacked the mental capacity" to remove her and wants the court to place her immediately in control of Redstone’s care. Her documents depict Redstone in extreme decline — forgetful, obsessed with eating steak and having sex (despite doctors' warnings) and prone to uncontrollable weeping.

Attorneys for Redstone responded in opposition documents the same day in which they deny Herzer's claim over Redstone's health care (the executive appointed Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman on Oct. 16 in a new Advance Health Care Directive, a document included in the 123 pages of court papers) and her description of Redstone.

The petition "is all about Ms. Herzer's personal financial agenda," states the opposition from Redstone reps Amy Koch and Gabrielle Vidal of Loeb & Loeb. "She suspected that in the days or weeks following her removal from his home, Mr. Redstone would take action to amend his estate plan, and that whatever benefit might have previously accrued to her would be eliminated."

Redstone's attorneys note the timing is convenient in Herzer's claim he worsened right around when he dumped her. "Ms. Herzer raised no concerns about Mr. Redstone’s health care or capacity at any time prior to October 12, 2015 — including and especially not when Mr. Redstone amended his estate plan and executed the health care power Ms. Herzer prefers just five weeks earlier," states the opposition.

The documents paint intriguingly (if unsurprisingly) contradictory portraits of the frail billionaire, who lately has missed Viacom and CBS shareholder meetings, prompting questions of his competency.

HOSPITALIZATIONS AND BREAKUP

In 2014, the mogul was hospitalized three times, including twice for aspiration and pneumonia, according to Herzer. In one instance, he had a feeding tube installed, she says. (Redstone using a feeding tube was rumored in a report in May on Redstone's condition on which Viacom declined to comment.)

“Even with his ailing physical health, however, Mr. Redstone remained mentally acute," continues Herzer. She says Redstone began mentally to decline after he discovered Holland had been unfaithful to him and ejected her from the house.                                                    

In the months after Ms. Holland's shocking admission and departure from Mr. Redstone's home and life, those who know Mr. Redstone say it was like a switch had been flipped, and his mental presence and acuity were faint shadows of what they had once been for the once vital, towering figure," she says.

SEX AND STEAK

Following the breakup, Redstone has become largely unable to move (“he must be carried around the house, to and from the bathroom, and in and out of bed," says Herzer), unable to speak "except for brief grunted responses" and unable to follow the plots of movies and TV shows or remember his medical condition. "Mr. Redstone is obsessed with eating steak and does not seem to recall or understand why he cannot do so," continues the document.

In addition, Redstone is "susceptible to prurient urges and fixations that he is unable to control in spite of repeated recommendations" from doctors, says Herzer. "Mr. Redstone is fixated on sex on a daily basis."

In a declaration filed with the petition, psychiatrist Stephen Read, based on Herzer's descriptions of Redstone, agreed on the impact of the breakup.

The photo in the petition shows Redstone in September 2015, says Herzer.

Others close to Redstone dispute the mogul's decline. They include Dauman, who in a declaration with the opposition document says Redstone was "engaged and attentive" when Dauman visited Nov. 3.

"Sumner told me that Manuela has been threatening to litigate, and that all she wants is his money. He and I spoke about business matters, including the upcoming Viacom board meeting,” continues Dauman. “We reminisced about corporate history and personal matters. We also watched some basketball together."

Redstone's physician Richard Gold similarly says Redstone's speech is impaired but his health is good. When he visited Redstone on Monday, he says, "Mr. Redstone seemed to be his usual self, and joked with me, as is typical." He says a CAT scan in the past couple of weeks revealed no evidence of a stroke or other problems. "Mr. Redstone’s brain scan was quite good for a 92-year-old."

“I did not at any time recommend to Ms. Herzer or Mr. Redstone that Mr. Redstone limit his sexual activity,” he adds.

 A BOOK IN THE WORKS

Redstone started a book titled Conversations with Sumner for Simon & Schuster in which author Mim Rivas would "direct" conversations between Redstone and other prominent people (Al Gore, for instance) about Redstone's life, says Herzer.

"About eight or nine interviews were conducted, but with the passage of time, Mr. Redstone became less and less able to talk and started to lose interest in the endeavor," continues her petition. "After Ms. Holland left in August 2015 Mr. Redstone abandoned the project. Mr. Redstone forgot all about the book that had excited him."

 HIS SIGNATURES

Here's the mogul’s signature on the May 2014 included in the petition from Herzer:

The signature on the October 2015 directive included in his opposition:

WHAT'S NEXT

Questions about Redstone's condition have plagued the companies he controls. Viacom and CBS stocks have declined significantly this year as the mogul has retreated from the public eye, with many analysts suggesting a lack of leadership has stalled growth and innovation.  

In the meantime, Herzer's attorneys have applied for a hearing Dec. 10. They want Redstone medically examined and to depose Redstone, Gold, Redstone’s estate attorney and members of his staff before then. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Monday.

Nov. 26, 9:03 a.m. Updated to clarify Stephen Read based his opinion on Herzer's declaration.

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