7:07am PT by Eriq Gardner
Philippe Dauman Argues Trustees' Ratification of His Removal Isn't Significant
In advance of an important hearing on Tuesday that will help determine the future of Viacom, Philippe Dauman and George Abrams have filed new court papers that argue that a dispute over their ouster from the Sumner Redstone National Amusements Trust must take place quickly in Massachusetts.
The move is a reaction to filings on Friday from the Sumner Redstone camp that contained something new and potentially tipping. It was revealed then that four of the seven Trustees including "swing vote" David Andelman had affirmed the removal of Dauman and Abrams, potentially rendering Redstone's competency to determine Trustrees as moot. If a majority agrees that Dauman and Abrams should no longer have a place at the entity that controls 80 percent of Viacom stock, it might also swing power to Shari Redstone.
But on Monday, Dauman and Abrams told a Massachusetts probate court that the "ratification" has "no legal significance" because the "Trust instrument empowers only Sumner Redstone to remove Disinterested Trustees while he lives and has capacity. The Trust instrument in now way provides that anyone else, including any of the trustees, has the power to remove trustees at a time when Mr. Redstone lacks capacity."
The back-and-forth on this topic could be the subject of a coming motion to dismiss. For now, a judge is set to consider on Tuesday whether to give fast-track status to a lawsuit filed May 23 that Dauman says will shape the fate of both Viacom and CBS. He's alleging that Shari has unduly influenced her father.
Dauman and Abrams argue that given the precarious health of the 93-year-old Redstone, whose condition has been the subject of litigation for the past six months, it's essential to move now given the new need to evaluate him. Reacting to other arguments from Redstone's lawyers to give primacy to a petition filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, the two also assert they have standing to make this challenge and that Massachusetts is the proper forum given that the Trust was settled in the state, a majority of the Trustees are residents and the assets are held there as well.
"The only connection to California of which Plaintiffs are aware is the fact that Mr. Redstone currently lives in Beverly Hills," states the court papers. "Given Mr. Redstone's debilitated state, however, it is highly unlikely that he is 'administering' the Trust from his home — which is the sole factual basis for jurisdiction asserted by Mr. Redstone in the California case."