Court fight erupts over care of media mogul Sumner Redstone

AP News
|
Posted: Nov 25, 2015 8:46 PM
Court fight erupts over care of media mogul Sumner Redstone

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A legal battle that began Wednesday over medical care for ailing media mogul Sumner Redstone has produced dueling portraits of the billionaire's health and mental state.

Redstone's former companion Manuela Herzer claims in a probate filing seeking to regain control of his care that Redstone can no longer make informed decisions and requires around-the-clock medical care.

Her claims, however, were disputed by lawyers for the 92-year-old Redstone, who say he was evaluated by a doctor on Monday and found to be in good spirits and able to make decisions.

Herzer and Redstone dated between 1999 and 2001 and have maintained a close relationship since then. She has been designated in estate planning documents as the person Redstone wants to make medical decisions for him, her filings state.

Redstone controls CBS Corp. and Viacom Inc. through National Amusements Inc., which holds nearly 80 percent of the voting stock in both media companies. Redstone hasn't joined an investor conference call since November 2014.

A Los Angeles judge will be asked on Monday to issue orders regarding Redstone's care and whether he should undergo a medical evaluation sought by Herzer. Redstone's attorneys contend that evaluation is unnecessary.

Redstone recently underwent a brain scan, which found no signs of stroke or other impairment, his court filing states.

In a statement, Redstone's attorney, Gabrielle Vidal, says Herzer's allegations about Redstone mental capacity are preposterous and called her filing an invasion of privacy.

In court filings, Vidal says Herzer's contention is a result of being kicked out of Redstone's home in October and stripped of her rights to make medical decisions by new estate planning documents.

Herzer's attorneys counter that Redstone didn't have adequate mental capacity to replace his former companion as his designee to make medical decisions.

Her attorney, Pierce O'Donnell, said late Wednesday the personal attacks are meant to distract from the real state of Redstone's health. "These vicious personal attacks on her speak volumes about the utter baselessness of the claim that Sumner is competent to manage his own affairs," O'Donnell said.

Among other details Herzer claims in her filing:

— Redstone was hospitalized three times in mid-2014, twice for aspiration and pneumonia, leaving him with a feeding tube, catheter and the need to have saliva and phlegm suctioned from his throat multiple times day and night.

— He can "barely vocalize" and is "emotionally distraught" at his inability to eat or drink.

— His signature is like a straight line, "appearing as if someone moved the paper under his pen."

In contrast, Redstone's lawyers rebutted in documents:

— Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman visited him for 90 minutes on Nov. 3, reminisced about corporate and personal history, watched basketball together and discussed a movie Redstone had screened recently. Dauman said Redstone was "engaged and attentive."

— His primary physician, Dr. Richard Gold, visited him on Monday where Redstone "seemed to be his usual self, and joked with me." While Gold called Redstone's speech "substantially impaired," he said his patient was able to make his own medical decisions.

— Redstone underwent a CT scan within the last two weeks that Gold said did not show evidence of a stroke and "was quite good for a 92-year-old."

Redstone technically leads both CBS and Viacom — earning a combined $24 million in compensation from the companies in fiscal 2014. CBS' chief executive is Les Moonves, while Dauman, Redstone's longtime lawyer, runs Viacom.

Dauman is now Redstone's chosen person to make medical decisions for him, court filings state.

After his death, control of CBS and Viacom passes to seven trustees that include Dauman, Redstone's daughter Shari Redstone and her son Tyler Korff.

___

AP Business Writer Ryan Nakashima contributed to this report.

___

Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP