How Sumner Redstone's Lady Friends Scored Millions of Dollars

Sumner_Redstone_and_Companions - H 2015
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Sumner_Redstone_and_Companions - H 2015

Manuela Herzer's ejection from the mogul's life cost her a $50 million inheritance, plus his mansion and a key role with the Redstone Charitable Foundation, which has opened many doors (and bank accounts) for his companions.

This story first appeared in the Feb. 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

When attorneys for Sumner Redstone revealed in a Feb. 9 court filing that the ailing billionaire's ex-companion Manuela Herzer stood to inherit $50 million plus his $20 million Beverly Park house, the message was clear: In challenging her dismissal as Redstone's health care proxy, Herzer is after the money. But it's also clear that more than a mere $70 million could be at stake from Herzer's point of view.

The filing confirms that changes in Redstone's will, made after Herzer was booted from his home in October, ensure those assets will go to the Sumner Redstone Charitable Foundation upon his death. And as Vanity Fair reported in May, Herzer expected to control that foundation upon the 92-year-old's death. "He's said to me a million times, 'Manuela, what's mine is yours,' " she told the magazine. A source with ties to Herzer now says she believed she already was running the foundation, initially with Redstone's girlfriend Sydney Holland and then, following Holland's 2015 ouster, on her own, until she herself was ejected.

The foundation's recent IRS filings list only Redstone as an officer or trustee, though sources say Herzer was a trustee. Her attorney, Pierce O'Donnell, declined comment on her role with the foundation but reiterates to THR that she is seeking reinstatement as Redstone's caretaker only out of concern for the frail mogul's well-being.

Some sources believe a great deal of Redstone's wealth, estimated by Forbes at $4.6 billion, will go to his foundation, which, according to its website, has contributed more than $216 million to charitable causes, including Cedars-Sinai and Massachusetts General Hospital. But the foundation appears to have provided Herzer, 51, as well as at least one other former Redstone girlfriend, Elizabeth Malia Andelin, with opportunities to associate themselves with philanthropic projects -- and in some instances to profit. In 2012, for example, Andelin received $75,000  to secure an $850,000 donation for the Global Poverty Project from Redstone's foundation. 

Tax filings for 2014 show that Redstone's foundation made contributions of more than $31.5 million with about $90 million more in undistributed funds. Among the recipients were such institutions as Harvard University. There also were pledges of $6 million to the Sydney D. Holland Foundation and The Herzer Foundation, the latter established that year with the stated purpose of fighting childhood diseases and abuse.

Andelin was a flight attendant for Redstone before she became a philanthropist.

With Herzer as president, the foundation listed end-of-year assets of nearly $6 million — a drastic increase from the $335 on hand at the beginning of 2014. The contributions listed were $50,000 to the Brent Shapiro Foundation for Alcohol and Drug Awareness (founded by lawyer Robert Shapiro) and $10,000 to Hong Kong-based International Care Ministries, whose website says it was founded in 1992 by interior designer Sharon Pastre to fight poverty in the Philippines.

Herzer already is more than well-off thanks to her long friendship with Redstone: the mogul's daughter, Shari Redstone, said in a court filing that Herzer had received $70 million from Redstone since 2009. But even if Herzer is motivated now by concern for Redstone, she also might be loath to give up her role as head of a heavily endowed foundation. For instance, a source says Herzer gained a spot on the board of Al Gore's Climate Reality Project, which in 2014 received a $10 million pledge from Redstone's foundation. "You get invited to a lot of stuff," says a trustee of another foundation. "It would give her position in the world, to be sure."