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Judge denies Keryn Redstone’s request to join suit challenging Sumner Redstone’s competency

Sumner Redstone
Sumner Redstone arrives at the 2013 MOCA Gala in Los Angeles.
(Richard Shotwell / Invision/ Associated Press)

A Los Angeles County judge on Wednesday denied a request by the granddaughter of Sumner Redstone to join the contentious court battle over whether the media mogul is mentally competent.

The request by Redstone’s 34-year-old granddaughter, Keryn Redstone, came just two weeks before the May 6 trial.  She had sought to be on the opposite side of the legal dispute from her ailing 92-year-old grandfather and her influential aunt, Shari Redstone, who is vice chair of CBS Corp. and Viacom Inc.

“The court does not believe ... that her being a party truly adds anything to this case,” Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David J. Cowan said during a 35-minute hearing. “Like a lot of families, every family has its own history and this court case is not going to be about the Redstone family history.”

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Revelations contained in the court papers filed this week depict how members of the famously fractured family continue to be at odds with one another. Those tensions could have far-reaching ramifications for the Redstone corporate empire.

The family fracas heightens intrigue over what might happen to Viacom and CBS after the mogul dies. The Redstone family controls nearly 80% of the voting stock in the two entertainment companies, which boast such well-known assets as Paramount Pictures, the CBS broadcast network, radio and TV stations, and cable channels Showtime, MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, BET, Spike, Comedy Central and TV Land.

Seven trustees eventually will oversee the Sumner M. Redstone National Amusements Inc. Trust that is charged with making decisions about Sumner Redstone’s controlling interest in the two media companies.

Keryn Redstone is one of five beneficiaries of the Redstone trust.

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This week, Keryn Redstone, who lives in Los Angeles, said that she wanted to join the cause of Sumner Redstone’s former companion, Manuela Herzer, who in late November filed the petition to have the mogul declared mentally incompetent. Until mid-October, Herzer was Sumner Redstone’s primary caregiver.

In her 11-page declaration, Keryn Redstone, the daughter of Sumner Redstone’s estranged son, Brent, said she has had a long and loving relationship with her grandfather, whom she calls “Grumpy,” but she was worried about the quality of his care and his declining health.

She said she has been unable to visit her grandfather since mid-February, and she wants the opportunity to see him again.

“It took a great amount of courage for this woman to come forward,” Ronald Richards, one of the attorneys representing Herzer, told the judge. “She is not some outsider. This is a biological granddaughter who has a long-term relationship with Sumner Redstone and who has a vested interest.”

But the judge said Keryn Redstone’s request came too late and would complicate the trial. Other witnesses would have to be called to give their version of the events that Keryn Redstone described in her declaration.

Not only that, the judge said, the allegations that she raised in her court papers did not have much bearing on central issues in the case: whether the media mogul is mentally competent, and if he has been under undue influence from the people on whom he depends for his care.

Injecting the tangled history of Redstone family squabbles into the trial would be counterproductive, he said.

Cowan did say the granddaughter could testify as a witness at the trial.

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“She has been heard, and she will continue to be heard,” the judge said.

Keryn Redstone’s relationship with Shari Redstone has long been tumultuous, according to  Keryn Redstone’s declaration filed this week. She described several run-ins with her aunt, and described how Sumner Redstone and his daughter also feuded.

“He had a very tempestuous and difficult relationship with his daughter, my aunt Shari Redstone, and her ex-husband Ira Korff,” Keryn Redstone said in her declaration. “Shari has consistently expressed hostility toward me, my father, and Grumpy in sometimes dark and threatening ways.”

Shari Redstone, in a statement released Tuesday, said: “I am sad and disappointed that Keryn has chosen to align herself with Herzer against my father. I will not dignify the absurdity of Keryn’s false claims with any further response.”

One of Sumner Redstone’s attorneys, Robert Klieger, told the judge Wednesday that the Viacom founder remains intensely interested in the proceedings unfolding at the downtown Los Angeles courthouse. Klieger and Redstone’s other attorneys visited the mogul on Wednesday at his Beverly Park mansion, Klieger said, and Redstone wanted them to read Keryn Redstone’s declaration.

“We read him the entire declaration, all 11 pages, paragraph by paragraph,” Klieger said.

A portion of the trial is expected to focus on whether Redstone has been under undue influence by the people around him. Klieger said he expects Herzer’s lawyers to probe the motivations of people surrounding Redstone, including the mogul’s nurses, his daughter Shari Redstone and possibly even Viacom Chief Executive Philippe Dauman.

Because of that, Klieger said, Redstone’s legal team would like to raise questions about Herzer’s motivations for bringing the case. The judge said he would consider that issue later.

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Keryn Redstone’s father, Brent Redstone, parted ways with his father, Sumner Redstone, and his sister, Shari Redstone, a decade ago after Sumner Redstone appeared to favor his daughter in business dealings.

Brent Redstone sued the family holding company, National Amusements Inc., and received a $250-million settlement. He relinquished his stake in the holding company.

Years ago, Sumner Redstone established the generation-skipping Sumner M. Redstone National Amusements Inc. Trust for the benefit of his grandchildren. Brent Redstone’s two daughters, Keryn and Lauren, are among the five beneficiaries of the trust, along with the three children of Shari Redstone and Ira Korff.

Shari Redstone and her son, Tyler Korff, are two of the seven trustees that will eventually oversee the family’s stake in the media companies.

meg.james@latimes.com
Twitter: @MegJamesLAT

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