Sumner Redstone should undergo an ‘immediate medical evaluation,’ Viacom CEO says

The battle for control of Viacom flared up with the Sumner Redstone family working to line up prospective new board members.

The battle for control of Viacom flared up with the Sumner Redstone family working to line up prospective new board members.

(Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)

Lawyers for Viacom Chief Executive Philippe Dauman assert in new court papers that ailing Sumner Redstone should submit to an “immediate medical evaluation” by a neutral doctor to determine the media mogul’s mental capacity.

Dauman and his legal team are preparing for an important court appearance in Massachusetts on Tuesday – the first hearing in the matter brought by Dauman and fellow Viacom board member George Abrams. The two men filed a lawsuit two weeks ago to contest their removal as trustees of the trust that will oversee Redstone’s business holdings and as board members of the Redstone family investment vehicle, National Amusements Inc.

National Amusements holds the Redstone family’s controlling shares of Viacom and CBS Corp. The high-stakes court proceeding is expected to decide who will make decisions about Redstone’s more than $40 billion media empire long after the mogul is gone.


In their court documents, submitted Monday morning, Dauman and Abrams say that Redstone’s precarious health necessitates an immediate examination to determine the extent of his neurological disorder.

The filing also notes that Redstone was hospitalized in the last few weeks.

“Time is of the essence. ...There is grave risk that Sumner Redstone will not be able to provide any evidence in this case,” said the filing signed by Dauman lawyer Joseph L. Bierwirth Jr.

“He is a 93-year-old man suffering from overwhelming physical ailments, including an inability to speak, stand, walk, eat, write or read. He suffers from a progressive neurological disease characterized by dementia,” the filing reads.

Dauman’s documents attempt to counter court papers filed Friday by lawyers hired to represent Redstone. In those documents, a UCLA geriatric psychiatrist, Dr. James Spar, detailed two recent visits with Redstone – on May 20 and May 24 – and verbal exchanges the two men had. Spar determined that Redstone had legal mental capacity to make changes to his trust.

The UCLA doctor, Spar, “presents a one-sided, uncross-examined and distorted view of Mr. Redstone’s mental condition,” the filing said. “Dr. Spar’s submission … reads like an interview or deposition summary, as if Mr. Redstone was capable of conducting a conversation.”


Redstone’s legal team fired back.

“Sumner Redstone is physically stable, engaged with legal counsel, and participating in strategic decisions,” a representative of Redstone’s legal team said. “He’s making his views clear, as Dr. James Spar indicates in his report filed with the court.”

The mogul’s lawyers argued that Spar wasn’t just some hired hand, that he was a respected geriatric psychiatrist at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and author of three books and dozens of articles, with a specialty on capacity and undue influence.

“He is highly qualified to provide expert observations on this matter, and has evaluated Sumner Redstone several times over the past two years,” the representative said. “We look forward to upcoming legal proceedings, so the truth can come out.”

“In fact, as even Dr. Spar effectively acknowledges, Mr. Redstone is unable meaningfully to speak at all,” the filing said.

Dauman and Abrams suspect that Redstone is acting under the influence of his long estranged daughter, Shari Redstone, who returned to his life late last year after Redstone expelled his former companion, Manuela Herzer, from his life.

Dauman, other Viacom board members and one of Redstone’s grandchildren, Keryn Redstone, say they have not been allowed to see the mogul for more than two months.


“Dauman and Viacom directors have repeatedly sought to meet with Mr. Redstone to discuss business matters including a potential Paramount [Pictures] transaction. They have been rebuffed,” the filing said.

Sumner Redstone is said to be furious over Viacom’s plan to sell a minority stake in the Los Angeles movie studio.

The court documents also assert that Massachusetts – not California – is the proper jurisdiction for the matter since many of the Redstone trustees live in Massachusetts and because National Amusements is based in Massachusetts.

In addition, they say, Sumner M. Redstone National Amusements Trust was formed under Massachusetts law.


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12:55 p.m.: This article was updated to include a statement from a representative of Sumner Redstone’s legal team.

This article was first published at 8:27 a.m.