Viacom Chairman Ordered to Testify in Redstone Health Suit

  • Redstone involved in lawsuit filed by former girlfriend
  • Manuela Herzer says Dauman lied about Redstone's mental health

Viacom Inc. Chairman Philippe Dauman will have to testify in a California case over the health of his predecessor, Sumner Redstone.

Justice Kathryn Freed in Manhattan ordered Dauman to sit for a deposition in a dispute with Manuela Herzer, Redstone’s former girlfriend and caretaker, over who should be responsible for his healthcare. Herzer had been set to inherit $50 million and Redstone’s estate before she was evicted from his Los Angeles mansion and replaced by Dauman as his health-care agent in October.

Redstone stepped down as chairman of Viacom and CBS Corp. earlier this month. Viacom’s board appointed Dauman as his successor, rebuffing Redstone’s daughter and signaling an end to the family patriarch’s reign over the media company. Control of his 80 percent stakes in both businesses will be given to a family trust if he becomes incapacitated or dies.

Dauman asked the state court in January to quash a subpoena issued by Herzer, who is seeking to invalidate a health directive created by the 92-year-old billionaire in October. She alleged Redstone isn’t mentally able to make decisions for himself.

Freed rejected a request to limit the questioning to two hours, but granted bids to seal the testimony, following a hearing on Thursday. The judge ordered Herzer’s lawyers to limit the questions about Viacom’s finances in line with instructions given by the California judge.

"I don’t want him giving away corporate secrets or corporate finances," Freed said.

Dauman says the subpoena is an attempt to harass both men and designed to generate publicity as part of Herzer’s "disgraceful strategy" of spreading information about Redstone’s health.

3,000 Miles Away

His lawyer, Leslie Gordon Fagen, told the judge Thursday that Dauman was 3,000 miles away when the decision was made to remove Herzer as Redstone’s caretaker.

Dauman "played no role that day in the execution of that health care directive," the lawyer said.

After the hearing Fagen said in a statement: “Mr. Dauman is prepared to cooperate fully with the court and provide relevant information in the California action.”

Dauman made himself a material witness by submitting sworn statements about his meetings and conversations with Redstone to support his assertion that Redstone was mentally alert, Herzer’s lawyer, Pierce O’Donnell, said in a statement.

“Philippe Dauman has a lot to answer, for his attempts to deceive the Viacom board of directors and investing public about Mr. Redstone’s mental capacity,” O’Donnell said. “We continue to gather more and more incriminating evidence that Mr. Redstone is the victim of severe mental and emotional abuse, fraud and manipulation by those close to him.”

Closely Watched

The case is being closely watched due to its potential impact on two of the biggest U.S. media companies and has put the issue of Redstone’s health in the public eye. At least one major investor, Mario Gabelli, the largest outside holder of voting stock in Viacom, has demanded details about his condition.

A hearing is scheduled Monday in California on a bid to dismiss Herzer’s petition, which seeks to reinstate her as the person responsible for decisions about his health.

Redstone’s own doctor has said he visits the billionaire’s home several times a week and that the media mogul is mentally competent. A geriatric psychiatrist who examined Redstone in October when he signed estate-planning documents also concluded he isn’t incapacitated. A report from a psychiatrist chosen by Herzer who examined Redstone in January was filed under seal earlier this month.

Longtime Friend

Herzer, who describes herself as Redstone’s longtime friend, companion and caretaker, had lived with him and his then-girlfriend Sydney since April 2013. Herzer dated Redstone from 1999 to 2001, according to her petition. After Redstone broke off with Holland in August, he changed his advance health-care directive to make Herzer his sole agent. Holland isn’t involved in the current dispute.

Herzer said in a court filing that the deposition is necessary because she wants to prove that statements made by Dauman about Redstone’s mental ability are false and misleading and "sought to portray Mr. Redstone as participating in conversations that Ms. Herzer contends never could have occurred."

Redstone is ranked No. 304 on Bloomberg’s list of global billionaires with a net worth of $4.5 billion.

The New York case is Dauman v. Herzer, 150412/2016, New York State Supreme Court, New York County (Manhattan.) The California case is in re Advance Health Care Directive of Sumner M. Redstone, BP168725, Los Angeles County Superior Court.

(An earlier version of this story corrected the name of the lawyer.)

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