Sumner Redstone’s ongoing battle with two former trusted advisers heated up Tuesday after the former Viacom chairman named two new members to the trust that will control his 80% voting stakes in Viacom and CBS upon his death or incapacitation.
Redstone, who abruptly removed Viacom executive chairman and CEO Philippe Dauman and Viacom board member George Abrams from the trust on Friday, has named National Amusements general counsel Tad Jankowski and former TV executive and former Salomon Smith Barney media analyst Jill Krutick to replace them.
Redstone also named his granddaughter Kimberlee Ostheimer (Shari Redstone’s daughter), to the National Amusements board of directors. National Amusements is the theater chain that holds Redstone’s stakes in both Viacom and CBS. Upon his death or incapacitation, the Sumner M. Redstone Irrevocable Trust, led by seven trustees, would control his voting stakes in the companies.
“This is my trust and my decision,” Redstone said in a statement. “I have picked those who are loyal to me and removed those who are not.”
Dauman and Abrams filed suit yesterday in Massachusetts to block Redstone’s effort to remove them from the trust, claiming the media mogul is being unduly influenced by his daughter Shari Redstone, a member of the trust and vice chair of National Amusements. If Dauman’s and Abrams’ removal is upheld, Shari Redstone’s influence over the trust could rise significantly.
Sumner Redstone’s attorneys filed their own suit yesterday in Los Angeles to validate his decision to oust Dauman and Abrams, adding that Dauman’s claims the Viacom media legend is a shell of his former self, unable to walk, speak or feed himself are a direct contradiction to the CEO’s earlier testimony that Redstone was alert and “opinionated as ever.”
In a statement, Dauman’s counsel Les Fagen said the latest litigation is a further attempt by Shari Redstone to control her father.
“The suit in California is Shari’s attempt to run away from the Massachusetts courts and to deflect attention from the real issue: Whether our friend and colleague Sumner is under the undue influence of his daughter, surrounded by a web of unfamiliar lawyers and public relations firms that she directs,” Fagen said in the statement. “It is outrageous for the new complaint and recent statements to rely on Mr. Dauman’s affidavit from last fall. Mr. Dauman stated only that Mr. Redstone was alert and attentive during two brief meetings last fall. But Mr. Dauman never asserted that Mr. Redstone was free of undue influence; indeed his lawyers later stipulated that he was susceptible to undue influence. And Mr. Dauman never commented as to Mr. Redstone’s competence on any matter, at any time, much less his ability to make conclusive decisions about complex issues concerning large public companies.”