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Viacom CEO pushes for fast-tracked trial in Redstone trust case

Media mogul Sumner Redstone's mental capacity is being questioned in a lawsuit by Viacom's chief executive.
(Matt Sayles / Invision)

Lawyers for Viacom Chief Executive Philippe Dauman on Monday pressed a Massachusetts court to fast-track a trial over his removal from the trust that will control the company.

Ninety-three-year-old media mogul Sumner Redstone last month moved to oust Dauman and fellow Viacom director George Abrams from the National Amusements trust, which will eventually determine the future of Viacom.

Dauman and Abrams filed suit in Massachusetts to dispute their removal. Redstone’s lawyers have asked Massachusetts probate Judge George Phelan to dismiss the case. A hearing is set for Thursday.

In the new court papers, Dauman’s lawyers said there is enough evidence to show that Redstone made the move under undue influence from his daughter Shari Redstone.

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The documents expanded on Dauman’s Thursday motion requesting an immediate medical evaluation of Sumner Redstone to determine if he has mental capacity. Dauman’s side wants the process to be expedited.

“The simple reason is that a central witness is 93 years old and quite ill,” Dauman’s lawyers wrote in their filing. “Regrettably, he may not be long available to be examined or to give testimony for this case.”

Redstone’s mental capacity is also expected to take center stage in a separate lawsuit in Delaware — where Viacom is incorporated — over the attempted removal of Dauman and four others from Viacom’s board of directors.

In a sweeping maneuver earlier this month, Redstone and his daughter, Shari, moved to replace the five members, in a major step toward solidifying their control over the struggling media giant.

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A Delaware judge said last week that Redstone’s capacity to make his own decisions would be a key matter in the case, and asked to be kept up to date on any discovery proceeding in the Massachusetts case related to the media titan’s mental competence.

In a separate development, Redstone spokesman Mike Lawrence said the Viacom board had prevented the mogul from meeting with Viacom independent director Charles Phillips. Lawrence was responding to claims by Dauman and his allies that the board has been blocked from meeting with Redstone.

“Philippe and his allies long ago stopped caring about what Sumner wants, or even the shareholders generally,” Lawrence said. “It’s all about self-preservation.”

ryan.faughdner@latimes.com

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Follow Ryan Faughnder on Twitter for more entertainment business coverage: @rfaughnder


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