Sumner Redstone's lawyers are asking a probate judge to dismiss a high-stakes lawsuit that challenges the mogul's decision to oust two longtime advisors from their influential roles helping oversee the Redstone family's media empire.
The two associates – Viacom Chief Executive Philippe Dauman and Viacom director George Abrams – were removed May 20 from their positions as board members of the Redstone family investment vehicle, National Amusements Inc., as well as from a trust that will eventually make decisions about Sumner Redstone's controlling shares in Viacom and CBS Corp.
Redstone's attorneys, in court documents filed Monday in Massachusetts, argued that the ailing 93-year-old mogul was acting within his authority when he removed Dauman and Abrams from the Sumner M. Redstone National Amusements Inc. Trust.
The only scenario that would prevent Redstone from making changes to his trust would be a written finding by three physicians stating that the mogul is mentally incompetent – and that hasn't happened, Redstone attorney William F. Sinnott argued in the motion to dismiss the lawsuit brought by Dauman and Abrams late last month.
"Sumner's authority under the trust, including the authority to remove trustees and to vote the stock of NAI – is suspended during his lifetime only if he is 'mentally incapacitated,' " the motion argues.
Sinnott also urged the Massachusetts judge overseeing the case to transfer the matter to California because the media tycoon has lived in Los Angeles since 2003 – and his nurses all live in the area.
"Sumner receives around-the-clock nursing care, and his primary physician strongly recommends that Sumner not travel across the country unless medically necessary,"' Sinnott wrote.
The Massachusetts probate judge, George Phelan, has scheduled a June 30 hearing to consider the motion to dismiss.
The Redstone family controls nearly 80% of the voting stock of CBS Corp. and Viacom Inc. The shares are held in the family investment vehicle, National Amusements, which also oversees the family-owned movie theater chain. National Amusements has its headquarters near Boston.
Sumner Redstone owns 80% of National Amusements and his daughter, Shari Redstone, owns the remaining stake.
Dauman, Abrams and a third Viacom director, Frederic Salerno, have been arguing that a healthy Sumner Redstone would not have dumped his longtime business associates and that he is acting under the undue influence of his daughter.
"The motions to dismiss of Shari Redstone and the lawyers hired for Sumner represent continued efforts to avoid a fair inquiry into Sumner's well-being and how various documents came to be," said a spokesperson for Dauman and Abrams. "The facts will only come out through discovery on an expedited basis. We are urging the court to allow the inquiry to proceed as quickly as possible."
Redstone's attorneys argue that the ailing mogul is making his own decisions. They say Dauman's plans to sell a stake in Paramount Pictures infuriated Redstone and prompted him to cut ties with Dauman, who has been his lieutenant since 1986. Redstone has known Abrams for 50 years.
Meanwhile, a judge in Delaware scheduled a hearing Wednesday to begin the review of the Redstone family's dramatic move last week to replace five Viacom board members, including Dauman and Abrams.
That hearing, before Delaware court Chancellor Andre G. Bouchard, is expected to deal with scheduling issues, including consolidating the two lawsuits that were filed last week and pending in Delaware.
In their petition, the Redstone family -- through National Amusements – asked the Delaware courts to affirm the removal of the five Viacom board members. Frederic Salerno, one of the removed directors, filed the Delaware June 16 petition that seeks to block the board changes.
The five board members are expected to serve until the Delaware judge rules on the case.
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