Sumner Redstone’s personal affairs have been pulled into public view once again as part of a contentious legal effort to determine whether the 92-year-old billionaire is mentally competent.
New court documents paint a dramatic picture of infighting, tension and estrangements among Redstone, his daughter Shari Redstone and other family members while the mogul’s former female companions — Manuela Herzer and Sydney Holland — played central roles in his life as his health began to deteriorate.
The man who created a vast entertainment empire that includes CBS Corp. and Viacom Inc. wants to be placed in a “simple pine box” after he is gone and be buried next to his parents in the family plot in Massachusetts.
“I would like my funeral service to be decorated with flowers and pictures of me,” Redstone said in June 2015 in plans for a traditional Jewish service.
The heads of his publicly traded companies — Viacom Chief Executive Philippe Dauman and CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves — are to deliver eulogies and serve as pallbearers at the funeral, along with his two grandsons.
Herzer, 51, who was Redstone’s primary caregiver until mid-October, is seeking to have a judge determine that Redstone lacks the mental capacity to handle his affairs.
The personal documents are part of Herzer’s legal strategy to demonstrate that she was a cherished member of Redstone’s inner circle even when the mogul was at odds with his daughter and other family members.
Thursday’s batch of documents attempt to discredit statements made by Shari Redstone, who also serves as vice chair of Viacom and CBS. The filings included the revelation that a private investigator was hired to follow Sumner Redstone’s female companions in 2014.
Over the years, Sumner and Shari Redstone have had a combative relationship — which she acknowledged in a declaration earlier this month.
Shari Redstone, 61, said that she and her father have patched things up, and that she loves him deeply and visits him often. She said her father has thrived since Herzer and Holland were forced from his home.
“We do not dispute or confirm the $70 million in proposed gifts,” Herzer’s lead attorney, Pierce O’Donnell, said Thursday.
Now Sumner Redstone wants those assets to go to his charitable foundation.
“Mr. Redstone is vulnerable to, and has become the victim of undue influence, fraud, manipulation and chicanery,” Bertram Fields, an attorney for Herzer, wrote in Thursday’s court petition.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David J. Cowan has scheduled a Feb. 29 hearing to consider a request by Redstone’s attorneys to have Herzer’s case dismissed.
Herzer’s lawyers are trying to keep the case alive and have asked for a trial. They continue to file new legal documents and are trying to obtain depositions from Shari Redstone and Dauman.
Herzer’s attorneys plan to rely on testimony by a psychiatrist that they hired, Dr. Stephen L. Read. The UCLA doctor spent an hour examing Redstone in late January and has filed a 37-page report on the mogul’s mental capacity. That report was filed under seal.
But less than a week after Read’s examination, Redstone stepped down as executive chairman of CBS and Viacom.
Herzer, in the newly filed declaration, said she loves Redstone. Her attorneys say Herzer would like the opportunity to see him again.
“Sumner and I have been close friends and confidantes since 1999,” Herzer said in Thursday’s declaration. “This is the reason why I have filed this petition. My loyalty and love is for Sumner, and I will do everything that I can to make sure that he is protected from this horrible set up that has separated us.”
Herzer has blamed Shari Redstone for some of the strife, and the newly revealed documents show considerable tension in the Redstone family.
Last year, Sumner Redstone asked several of his relatives to sign agreements pledging not to challenge the generous gifts he planned to leave Herzer and his then-girlfriend, Holland.
The relatives declined.
“There was a lot of acrimony,” O’Donnell said. “Shari was highly motivated to see Manuela leave.”
Shari Redstone has said that the family did not feel welcome at her father’s home while the two women were involved in his affairs. The Redstone family appears to have been upset by the central roles that Herzer and Holland were playing in the elder Redstone’s life — until last fall. (Holland was cut of of Redstone’s will in September, court documents show.)
The hiring of the private investigator rankled Sumner Redstone and the two women in November 2014. The latest documents include a November 2014 email that Redstone’s attorney, Leah Bishop, sent to Herzer and Holland about the investigator.
Bishop wrote that she checked to make sure the Redstone family investment firm, National Amusements Inc., was not footing the bill for the private eyes.
“No company funds are being used for this investigation,” Bishop wrote. “It is upsetting that this is happening, but Sumner cannot stop Shari from doing this.”
That same month, Sumner Redstone made a $1-billion offer to buy out his daughter from the family business. Redstone and his daughter were divided over whether to expand the family’s movie theater chain overseas. “Shari wants to continue to expand the foreign theater business, while Sumner has no interest in doing so,” according to one document in the court filings that proposed terms of a settlement between Sumner and Shari Redstone.
Shari Redstone, who owns 20% of National Amusements, did not accept the buy-out offer.
Shari Redstone on Thursday declined to comment.
“Shari Redstone is not going to dignify today’s baseless and mean-spirited attack on the Redstone family with any comment,” said her spokeswoman, Nancy Sterling.