Sumner Redstone Allowed to Be Examined in Healthcare Dispute

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.

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge has now decided to allow an examination of Sumner Redstone, the 92-year-old executive chairman of Viacom and CBS.

Manuela Herzer, one of Redstone's exes, has been pushing for this since late November when she filed a petition in court with the goal of being re-appointed his health care agent. Herzer was thrown out of the mogul's home on Oct. 12, and afterwards, Redstone tapped Viacom chief Philippe Dauman to be the one to make primary decisions about his health care.

In Herzer's lawsuit, she alleges that Redstone is "a tragic figure in the waning days of an accomplished life," "a living ghost," barely able to take look after himself without a team of caretakers.

Redstone's reps have painted her allegations as financially motivated, and when Judge Clifford Klein presided over the initial hearings, he decided there was no urgency to the situation. The court was scheduled to take up Redstone's motion to dismiss next month.

Today, a hearing was held where Herzer was denied permission for a deposition of Redstone, but was allowed to have her doctor examine him for one hour in the presence of Sumner's nurse and speech therapist. Redstone's own doctor and attorneys won't be able to attend.

The examining doctor will be Dr. Stephen L. Read, a psychiatrist, who has previously diagnosed Redstone with a "combination of ischemic cerebrovascular brain disease caused by respiratory difficulties and psychiatric disorders aggravated by the split with [ex-girlfriend Sydney] Holland."

The development comes amid pressure being exerted on the Redstone camp, including a shareholder lawsuit about the compensation he's been paid over the past couple of years. Herzer's camp has also been pushing for a deposition of Dauman after the Viacom chief gave a declaration about a home visit, saying, "I found him to be engaged and attentive."

Gabrielle Vidal, Redstone's attorney at Loeb & Loeb, commented about today's development, "We are gratified that the Court continues to reject Ms. Herzer's increasingly desperate and disingenuous attempts to depose Mr. Redstone.”

Herzer's attorney, Pierce O'Donnell, called the judgment "an equitable balance that assures our client has a fair opportunity to prove that her beloved Sumner was not competent when the attorneys had him remove her as his health caregiver.  Sumner asked Manuela, and she promised, to care for and protect him for the rest of his life. Today’s victory is a  major milestone in honoring her commitment.”