Sumner Redstone Lawyer Fires Back at Ex's Lawsuit: "Preposterous," "Lies"

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 isn't dead yet, but an explosive legal fight in probate court is proceeding anyway.

Manuela Herzer, Redstone's longtime companion who was recently dumped and thrown out of their home, is seeking a medical examination of the 92-year-old executive chairman of Viacom and CBS. She's also demanding depositions and restoration of her role as the one to make primary decisions about Redstone's health care.

In her lawsuit, Herzer calls Redstone "a tragic figure in the waning days of an accomplished life," "a living ghost," barely able to take look after himself without a team caretakers. Represented by Pierce O'Donnell and Bert Fields, she attaches the opinion of one doctor who says that since Redstone discovered that ex-girlfriend Sydney Holland had allegedly been unfaithful, he's suffered "profound psychiatric issues."  Other doctors are said to "believe that he will never be able to eat, drink, or speak clearly again."

Herzer's court documents also paint Redstone as belligerent and weepy, unable to follow plot lines of film and TV shows thanks to short term memory issues, and obsessed with eating steak and occasionally demanding sex despite physician warnings. Redstone has also allegedly abandoned work on a book where he would reminisce about his life with famous personalities including former Vice President Al Gore.

Redstone's attorneys are already striking back.

In court papers filed on Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, they say Herzer's new demands "is all about Ms. Herzer's personal financial agenda. "

"Mr. Redstone kicked Ms. Herzer out of his house on October 12, 2015, and since then, Ms. Herzer has been on a warpath," continues the opposition brief. "Why? Because she suspected that in the days or weeks following her removal from his home, Mr. Redstone would take action to amend his estate plan, and that whatever benefit might have previously accrued to her would be eliminated."

In a statement, Redstone attorney Gabrielle Vidal of Loeb & Loeb adds, "Ms. Herzer’s claim that she filed this lawsuit out of concern for Mr. Redstone is preposterous. It is a meritless action, riddled with lies, and a despicable invasion of his privacy. It proves only that Ms. Herzer will stop at nothing to pursue her personal financial agenda."

According to Redstone's court documents, he has appointed Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman to act as his health care proxy. In a declaration, Dauman says he has been in regular contact with Redstone, and although the 92-year-old has a speech impediment, it hasn't precluded visits. Dauman says he most recently went to Redstone's home on Nov. 3 where they watched basketball together and discussed a movie.

"I found him to be engaged and attentive," says Dauman. "Sumner told me that Manuela has been threatening to litigate, and that all she wants is his money. Sumner and I spoke about business matters, including the upcoming Viacom board meeting."

The end of the two-decade long relationship between Redstone and Herzer sets a new standard for bad break-ups. According to the court documents, she had to sign an agreement just to pick up her personal things, and at one point, her attorneys even threatened to bring TMZ along.

All that said, Redstone's team has been concerned enough about Redstone's condition — possibly with an eye on a potential legal battle over his estate — that it had Redstone undergo a brain scan by his primary care physician Dr. Richard Gold, who reports that the scan "did not show any evidence of a stroke, and it revealed minimal if any atrophy ... Overall, Mr. Redstone's brain scan was quite good for a 92-year old."

Herzer has a bunch of other doctors including a dermatologist saying otherwise. For example, she puts forward the opinion of Dr. Stephen L. Read, a psychiatrist, who is diagnosing Redstone with a "combination of ischemic cerebrovascular brain disease caused by respiratory difficulties and psychiatric disorders aggravated by the split with Holland."

"Let's be blunt," retorts Redstone's papers. "Ms. Herzer's baseless demands and allegations are an attempt to take discovery in service of building a record for the post-death trust contest she intends to bring, and have nothing to do with any present (let alone urgent) concern for Mr. Redstone's protection."