Sumner Redstone saga continues as granddaughter challenges Viacom settlement
Sumner Redstone’s granddaughter Keryn Redstone did not participate in Viacom’s boardroom settlement, and would like an opportunity to weigh in, according to court papers filed Monday.
Late last week, Viacom’s board approved an agreement with National Amusements Inc., the investment firm that holds Sumner Redstone’s and his family’s controlling shares in Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp.
The settlement agreement was designed to end the rancor that pitted Sumner and Shari Redstone against several Viacom board members, including the company’s former chief executive Philippe Dauman.
The three-month legal battle centered on who would steer the Redstone family’s $40 billion media empire — Viacom and CBS — and Shari Redstone emerged the victor.
Judges in Massachusetts and Delaware must approve the settlement between Viacom and National Amusements before it becomes official. The case had been draining energy from Viacom, and the various parties wanted to end the bickering.
But there were problems with the deal, according to Keryn Redstone’s Los Angeles attorney, Pierce O’Donnell.
Keryn Redstone — who counter-sued in the contentious legal dispute earlier this month — was not included in settlement talks — nor did she consent to the agreement.
In addition, public documents haven’t indicated what role, if any, the ailing Sumner Redstone, 93, had in approving the deal that included the ouster of Dauman from his corporate role. Dauman also was removed from the trust that will eventually oversee Sumner Redstone’s stake in the controlling National Amusements.
Keryn Redstone is one of the beneficiaries of Sumner Redstone’s trust.
Massachusetts Probate Judge George Phelan agreed to hear Keryn Redstone’s motion on Friday, during a previously scheduled hearing on the matter. That hearing was intended to discuss Dauman’s demand that Sumner Redstone undergo a mental evaluation. However, due to the settlement, Dauman is withdrawing his request.
O’Donnell is pushing forward, and has asked the judge to nonetheless order an examination of Redstone.
The lawsuit was filed in May by Dauman and another Viacom board member, George Abrams, to contest their removals from the trust. Until last week, Dauman and Abrams had alleged that the mogul’s daughter, Shari Redstone, was inappropriately pulling the strings — not Sumner Redstone.
“In the blink of an eye, plaintiffs have apparently turned tail, agreed to acquiesce in Shari’s palace coup, and suddenly seek to ‘go gentle into that good night’ with their pockets full of nearly $100 million,” Keryn Redstone’s motion read. “Inquiring minds want to — indeed, must — know why Plaintiffs have joined hands with Shari and are now abdicating to her.”
National Amusements declined to comment.
Dauman, who was chief executive for nearly 10 years, agreed to leave Viacom with a $72 million golden parachute. As part of the agreement, Dauman’s longtime lieutenant at Viacom, Thomas Dooley, was elevated to chief executive.
Viacom owns such assets as Nickelodeon, MTV, VH1, Comedy Central, BET and the Paramount Pictures movie studio.
There have long been tensions between Shari Redstone and her niece, Keryn Redstone, who lives in Los Angeles. Keryn Redstone aligned herself with Manuela Herzer, the mogul’s former companion who brought the initial lawsuit late last year, claiming that Sumner Redstone was mentally incompetent.
O’Donnell also represents Herzer, who is suing Shari Redstone. The case against Shari Redstone is proceeding in a California court.
“Keryn should be permitted to analyze the documents to satisfy herself that they do not jeopardize her rights and reflect her grandfather’s true wishes,” the motion said.
Viacom shares on Monday slipped 4%, or to $1.75 a share, to $41.74.
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4:10 p.m. : This article was updated with additional details. It was originally posted at 8:05 a.m.
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