Sumner Redstone calls Viacom CEO claims ‘offensive’: filing
By Jessica Toonkel and Dan Levine
(Reuters) – Viacom Inc <VIAB.O> controlling stockholder Sumner Redstone called it “offensive and untrue” to suggest that he was unduly influenced by his daughter to remove Viacom Chief Executive Officer Philippe Dauman from a trust overseeing his shares, according to a court filing.
Redstone submitted to a Massachusetts court an affidavit made under oath on Monday in an effort to move litigation over his decisions to a California court from Massachusetts.
The 93-year-old media mogul, who has trouble speaking and needs around-the-clock care, last month removed Dauman and board member George Abrams from the seven-person trust that will control Redstone’s majority ownership of media companies Viacom and CBS Corp <CBS.N> when he dies or is deemed incapacitated.
Dauman and Abrams shot back with their own Massachusetts lawsuit contesting their removal from the trust and from the board of National Amusements Inc, Redstone’s privately held movie theater company through which he owns 80 percent of the voting shares of CBS and Viacom. In their suit, they claimed that Redstone is not mentally competent and has been manipulated by his daughter.
“I understand that Philippe Dauman and George Abrams contend that I was unduly influenced by my daughter to remove them as trustees and directors. That is offensive and untrue. I want that dispute, and any challenge to my competency, to be decided in Los Angeles California,” Redstone said in his affidavit.
In a statement, Dauman said the court filing from Redstone’s attorneys “represent continued efforts to avoid a fair inquiry into Sumner’s well-being.”
In May, Redstone defeated a similar mental competency lawsuit brought by an ex-girlfriend in a Los Angeles state court. That case had lasted several months before Redstone eventually stated his wishes under oath. Once he did, the judge quickly dismissed the case.
The outcome of the court case, and who ends up with control over the trust, will have wide-ranging implications for Viacom and CBS shareholders and could result in changes at the top of both companies, possibly through mergers and acquisitions.
A hearing on the motion to dismiss is scheduled for June 30 in Probate and Family Court in Canton, Massachusetts.
(Reporting by Jessica Toonkel in New York and Dan Levine in San Francisco; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)