CBS chairman Leslie Moonves will be dragged into the legal drama surrounding Sumner Redstone after all, as a California judge switched gears after tentatively granting a motion to quash a subpoena served to him.
The 94-year-old Redstone is suing two of his former companions for elder abuse, and is seeking to reclaim millions in gifts he'd given them. Both Sydney Holland and Manuela Herzer are also currently suing his daughter Shari Redstone for interfering with their inheritances — and now his business activities may be scrutinized and Moonves will join the fray.
Holland and Herzer in the fall of 2015 were each ejected from the elder Redstone's Beverly Park estate and his life. They maintain Shari orchestrated the ouster by enlisting her father's household staff to spy on them.
Herzer fired first in court, alleging that Redstone was being unduly influenced by his daughter and lacked the competency necessary to revoke her control over his health care directive. Los Angeles Superior Court judge David J. Cowan tossed that matter mid-trial, after a video of Redstone's deposition showed him calling Herzer "a f—ing bitch." She responded with a $100 million spying suit against Shari. Holland sued on similar claims in December, after the elder abuse suit was filed.
During last year's fight over Redstone's health care directive, court documents revealed his funeral plans — which included a eulogy by Moonves. In that same probate matter, the court gave Herzer the green light to depose then-Viacom chief Philippe Dauman.
Holland wants to subpoena Moonves, as well as CBS and Viacom, claiming the exec has knowledge about Redstone's romantic relationships that is relevant to allegations that she manipulated him out of millions. Holland is asking for all documents including communications related to Redstone's relationships, which is defined as "any romantic, intimate, or sexual partnership, endeavor, contact, exchange, affair, friendship, agreement, contract, affiliation or association ... regardless of length of time or extent of contact including but not limited to spouses, girlfriends, partners, or escorts." The request is limited to the years during which Holland and Redstone were involved, and the time since then.
"Evidence of Redstone's relationships with other women, as well as his gifts to them, the knowledge of which Moonves was privy to, is certainly relevant to show that Redstone's gifts to Holland were 'fair and equitable under the circumstances,'" wrote Holland's attorney Mark Holscher in a June 8 court filing.
Redstone attorney Andrew Walsh argues in a June 14 reply that the request is "fatally overbroad and intrusive" and is designed to harass and embarrass his client.
During a Wednesday morning hearing, judge Robert Hess tentatively granted the motion to quash the subpoena to Moonves, before changing course and deciding to allow it. Hess also indicated he will allow Holland to request documents from CBS and Viacom relating to Redstone's participation in board meetings. "The documents relating to his corporate decision-making seem to be relevant," said Hess.
Redstone attorney Robert Klieger agreed, saying, "If we’re talking about documents evidencing his engagement in significant business decisions, I’m actually okay with that.”
Holscher then argued that the end date of the subpoena should be well after Holland's August 2015 ouster, claiming that Redstone's business activity intensified after she left. "My understanding, is after Holland left, Redstone became forcefully involved in preventing any sale of an interest in Paramount," said Holscher, citing specifically his decision to change the management "with an iron fist" in the spring of 2016 and alluding to Dauman's ouster.
When arguments turned back to Moonves' knowledge of Redstone's gifts to "10 to 15" other women, Hess questioned the relevance. "Why is a gift to person X, with whom there is a more distant relationship, evidence that there is no undue influence to person Y, who has a closer and more intimate and intense-type relationship," he said, adding that it may be the proverbial comparison of apples to oranges. Hess also questioned whether the women who received those gifts have a right to privacy that would be violated by the subpoena.
Hess initially indicated that he would take the matters under submission — but, after addressing case management issues, he reached a decision. He will allow the subpoenas to Moonves, CBS and Viacom, which will be narrowed with regard to the issues discussed in court Wednesday and limited to the period between Jan. 1, 2010, and June 30, 2016.
Moonves, CBS and Viacom will still have the opportunity to object to the subpoenas.
June 21, 12:25 p.m. Updated with Hess' change in decision.