Viacom's Second Largest Shareholder Calls for Disclosure of Sumner Redstone's Mental Capacity

Boston Beginnings
Christopher Patey

Redstone was born in a Boston tenement to a father who changed the family name from Rothstein to Redstone and built a regional movie-theater chain. After a short career as an attorney (he graduated from Harvard and Harvard Law), Redstone joined his father's company, National Amusements, in 1954. He became CEO in 1967 and steadily grew the company with profitable investments in studios.

Mario Gabelli's request comes on the heels of a legal battle involving Redstone's former girlfriend, Manuela Herzer, and trustees.

Mario Gabelli, the billionaire investor who owns the second-largest block of Viacom voting shares, is calling on the media conglomerate to disclose the mental competence of executive chairman Sumner Redstone,

"All I want is transparency about what the board knows and what they're going to tell the world," Gabelli told The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday.

Reuters reported on Wednesday that Gabelli left a message for an undisclosed executive at Viacom asking that the company reveal much more about the health of 92-year-old Redstone than it has thus far.

On Wednesday afternoon, Viacom's chairman of its Governance and Nominating Committee William Schwartz emailed the following statement to THR: "As has been widely and publicly disclosed, Mr. Redstone's physicians have publicly attested that he is mentally capable, and this information is consistent with other medical and other information available to me."

Gabelli's request comes on the heels of a legal battle between Redstone's former girlfriend, Manuela Herzer, and the trustees who are poised to take control of both Viacom and CBS.

The day before Thanksgiving, 46-year-old Herzer appeared in Los Angeles Superior Court to make her case that she should be a caretaker to Redstone because of his declining mental state.

Among Herzer's claims is that Redstone is "fixated on sex" and "obsessed with eating steak." Also, he is so feeble that he "must be carried around the house, to and from the bathroom, and in and out of bed."

"Too many people are calling me and saying: 'What's going on?' " Gabelli told Reuters. "It would be appropriate for a company trading on the New York Stock Exchange to basically make a statement with some kind of veracity ... is he or isn't he in the position where he should be chairman emeritus or something?"

Gabelli also tweeted his plea that Viacom disclose more details about Redstone.

"Viacom.. (VIA)...give to Hollywood what belongs to H .....but give to all shareholders what the Board of directors know about Executive Chair," read Gabelli's tweet.

Viacom's shares dropped more than 4 percent on Wednesday and are off about 35 percent so far this year.

This story was updated at 3:23 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 2.