Sumner Redstone Hires New Lawyer in Battle Over His Health Care

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.

Sumner Redstone has a new lawyer in his battle with ex-companion Manuela Herzer, who seeks to be reappointed as the 92-year-old media mogul's health care agent. The Hollywood Reporter has learned that Robert Klieger at Hueston Hennigan is coming aboard this case that's set for trial in May. Since Herzer first filed her petition in November, Redstone has been represented by Loeb & Loeb litigator Gabrielle Vidal.

According to Redstone's camp, Loeb & Loeb is not being replaced; Klieger is just joining the legal team.

New legal representation during the course of litigation sometimes happens, of course, and isn't usually noteworthy, but here, Redstone's mental capacity is directly at issue. As such, the question arises: Who is doing the hiring for Redstone?

Herzer's attorney Pierce O'Donnell wants to know.

"From the beginning, it's unclear who is driving the train," says O'Donnell at Greenberg Glusker. "Is it the lawyers? Is it [Viacom chief] Philippe Dauman? Shari Redstone? [CBS director and longtime Redstone lawyer] David Andelman? One thing is clear: Sumner Redstone is not driving the train."

O'Donnell adds that he will probably bring this up as an issue to the judge.

The development occurs after Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Cowan's ruling in late February denying a motion to dismiss Herzer's petition. She's been alleging that Redstone is a "living ghost" and that he has been unduly influenced by others. Redstone's lawyers paint Herzer as financially motivated, and Cowan decided he needed to hear more testimony from the physicians and other witnesses to figure out competing claims of motive and, ultimately, Redstone's mental capacity.

Cowan also noted in his written decision that it is "perplexing" and "unusual" that Redstone puts Dauman, Viacom's chairman and chief executive, ahead of his own daughter for health care decisions, and as for Redstone's wishes against Herzer, the judge took notice of the fact that Redstone himself has filed no declaration in the case.

Klieger now gets set to tackle this case. He has much more of a general entertainment litigation background than Vidal, who works on probate matters. For instance, Klieger has been representing Viacom subsidiary Paramount in a profits-participation case.