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Sumner Redstone on Monday asked a court to confirm the validity of his decision to remove Philippe Dauman and George Abrams from the Trust that controls National Amusements and, in effect, controls Viacom and CBS.
On Friday, Redstone removed Abrams and Viacom CEO Dauman, but the same day Dauman claimed that the 92-year-old billionaire “lacks the capacity to have taken these steps.”
Redstone’s attorneys said Monday they filed a petition with the Los Angeles County Superior Court to not only affirm his ability to remove Dauman and Abrams but also appoint new trustees.
Redstone is the sole beneficiary of the Trust during his lifetime, giving him the ability to add and remove trustees at will, unless he is deemed “incapacitated,” his lawyers are arguing.
Dauman has argued that Redstone is being manipulated by daughter Shari Redstone, also a trustee. Both are also board members at Viacom.
“Mr. Redstone is saddened that Mr. Dauman is trying to make this dispute about his daughter,” attorney Robert Klieger of Hueston Hennigan said Monday. “This dispute is not about Shari Redstone. It is about Mr. Redstone’s right to have the individuals he wants and trusts managing his assets upon his death, and protecting the financial interests of his grandchildren.”
That Dauman is suggesting Redstone is suddenly lacking capacity and easily manipulated is unusual, Redstone’s lawyer says, given that he so recently was claiming otherwise. He testified earlier this year, for example, that Redstone was perfectly able to determine that his former girlfriend, Manuela Herzog, should be removed as his health agent.
“It is telling that Mr. Dauman is raising the question of mental capacity for the first time after he’s been removed when, just months ago in court documents, he pronounced Mr. Redstone ‘engaged, attentive and as opinionated as ever,'” Klieger said.
Abrams, a longtime attorney for Redstone, and Dauman are perceived by insiders as rivals to Shari Redstone, whereas their likely replacements in the seven-person Trust would be allies.
Under consideration for trustee appointments, according to those close to the situation, are National Amusements general counsel Tad Jankowski, Sumner Redstone’s granddaughter Kimberlee Ostheimer and family friend Jill Krutick.
Earlier, Dauman issued a statement reading, in part: “We all continue to have great respect and affection for Mr. Redstone, but he is clearly being manipulated by his daughter, Shari. After years of estrangement, she has inserted herself into his home, taken over his life, and isolated him from anyone not under her control, including longtime business colleagues.”
In the filing Monday, Sumner Redstone’s attorneys argue: “Because there is no evidence that Petitioner was incapacitated or unable to manage his affairs in a competent manner within the meaning of the Trust Agreement at the time he executed the Removal and Appointment Instruments, those instruments are valid.”
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