Sumner Redstone isnt mentally impaired, merely old, his lawyer told a magistrate in Massachusetts in arguing against a request by Viacom Inc. Chief Executive Officer Philippe Dauman to have the billionaire medically evaluated.
The idea that he could suffer from mortal cancer at any time — you could say that about any elderly person, Redstones lawyer, Robert Klieger, said during a hearing Tuesday. Neither his physical or mental condition are deteriorating.
Dauman and Viacom director George Abrams sued last month after Redstone removed them from a trust that controls his $40 billion media empire. Lawyers for the men, who are seeking to be reinstated, recommended a magistrate to hold a quick trial over their claims that the 93 -year-old Redstone was mentally impaired when he made the decision to oust them and is being manipulated by his daughter Shari.
Nobody can reasonably deny that Sumner Redstone will not be long available, said Les Fagen, an attorney for Dauman and Abrams. The question my clients ask , not out of self interest but out of fiduciary responsibility, they want to know whether the Sumner Redstone they knew would ever do this to his closest friends.
Probate Judge George Phelan said he may rule on the request for an expedited trial schedule before the end of June, where reference is expects to hear debates on motions to dismiss.
I have a lot to digest, Phelan said at the end of the hearing. I grew up in a housing project where I was lucky to have a one-quarter in my pocket, so Im trying to digest the concept of billion with a B.
The dispute is being heard in country probate court in Canton, Massachusetts, about 20 miles( 32 kilometers) south of Boston in the district where the trust was created. Its one of two tribunals on separate coasts being asked to decide the legal battle over Redstones mental capacity and his ability to make decisions even as the billionaire takes steps to reassert control over Viacom, the owner of MTV and Paramount Pictures.
Kleiger said the billionaire is in good health, contrary to supposition about his imminent demise, and was hospitalized only once since last fall so doctors could monitor his reactions to new drugs. While Redstones speech can be difficult to understand, the billionaire says vulgarities with remarkable clarity, he added.
Redstone is find and examined at least twice per week by his treating physician, according to tribunal papers filed Monday. Despite his physical restrictions, including limited mobility and a severe speech impairment, Redstone exercises daily and has the energy for frequent excursions to visit with his grandson, the doctor, Richard Gold, said in an affidavit.
A brain scan conducted on Redstone in November indicated no evidence of a stroke and disclosed minimal if any atrophy, Gold said. Redstone was hospitalized for four days last month to be monitored for minor changes in his health and his reaction to new drug, according to the filing. Gold didnt detail the health changes.
Redstone filed his own lawsuit in Los Angeles attempting tribunal approval of his decision to fire Dauman and Abrams. The lawsuit, which seeks to have the dispute heard in California, was filed on the same day Dauman filed his objection in Massachusetts. Shares of Viacom, which were down more than 40 percent last year, have rallied in the wake of Redstones moves.
The billionaire said June 3 that he had the backing of four out of seven regents, which entails Dauman and Abrams will be out of the trust even if they win their case.
At the heart of Daumans complaint is the contention that Redstone isnt speaking for himself. He argues that Redstone suffers from dementia and is under the undue influence of his once-estranged daughter in a plot to take control of the trusts majority stakes in Viacom and CBS Corp.
Fagen told Phelan on Tuesday that while the trust agreement doesnt define the term undue influence, the burden of proof is on Shari to disprove it. Redstones trust agreement is private. Lawyers gave Phelan a transcript of such documents on Tuesday for review.
Shari Redstone isnt acting as her parents fiduciary and isnt in charge of his care, Klieger told Phelan. The billionaire, who has an independent care manager, leaves the house to visit family and has friends in Malibu, the lawyer said.
He is not a prisoner in his own home, Klieger said.
Redstone was indicated in tribunal papers that he lost religion in Dauman after he and Abrams acted against his hopes. The duo removed Redstone as Viacoms chairman, dismissed his opposition to shopping a Paramount stake, shunned requests for information and basically treated him as if he was already gone, according to the filing. Redstone said he feared Dauman would answer to no one if he held the top two posts at Viacom while controlling the trust.
As an example of Redstones lucidity, lawyer Klieger recounted a session at the magnates home earlier this year in which Redstone asked him to deliver to Viacom executives a message telling them not to sell off Paramount.
Daumans lawyer countered that the anecdote instead indicated Redstone was slipping as he would never entrust Klieger, then a relative stranger, with such a message.
Does this sound like the act of a competent human ?, Fagen asked. Or does it sound like a man whos kind of left in prison trying to get a message out?
On Monday, Viacoms controlling stockholder, Redstones National Amusements Inc ., amended the media companys bylaws involving unanimous committee approval for any bargains involving Paramount. Sumner and Shari Redstone are both on Viacoms board.
The case is Dauman v. Redstone, 16 -E0 020, Massachusetts Probate and Family Court, Norfolk County( Canton ).
( An earlier version of this story corrected the misspelling of Robert Kliegers last name .)
Read more: www.bloomberg.com