- Ex-girlfriend claims billionaire manipulated to force her out
- Judge rules to consider all allegations in a single trial
Infighting among Sumner Redstone’s family and current and former friends will be on full display in a probate trial set to begin Friday morning in Los Angeles.
A judge said he plans to hold only one trial to decide whether the 92-year-old media billionaire was manipulated by his entourage when his former girlfriend was kicked out of his mansion, as well as whether Redstone was capable of making decisions for himself at the time.
In court filings Thursday, Redstone’s lawyers said Manuela Herzer, the former girlfriend and confidante seeking to be reinstated as his health-care proxy, was liberally using Redstone’s credit card at a time when she claims to have been concerned about him being a “living ghost.”
Redstone ended his relationship with Herzer and evicted her because of her “undisputed dishonesty,” according to his lawyers. She endeavored to keep one woman whom Redstone wanted to see away from him and faked a letter intended to infuriate him, Redstone lawyers said.
In the weeks before Herzer was evicted from his home, she spent more than $200,000 on Redstone’s American Express card, had him sign for $40,000 in cash delivered to his house, and executed a $5 million grant agreement with Redstone for her foundation, according to his lawyers.
Redstone found out about Herzer’s alleged lies when Terry Holbrook, the other woman who he wanted to see, told him that she had been available at times that Herzer had she wasn’t, his lawyers claim.
As of 2015, Herzer and another of Redstone’s ex-girlfriends had collectively received about $150 million from him and were the primary beneficiaries of his trust, the lawyers said. They exercised "virtually unfettered" control over his money, according to Redstone’s lawyers.
The judge on Thursday said he won’t split the trial in two. That means he’ll determine whether Redstone was mentally sound in October when he removed Herzer from his health-care directive, as well as consider the thorny issue of whether Redstone was manipulated by those close to him to turn over control of his care to Viacom Inc. Chief Executive Officer Philippe Dauman.
Redstone’s daughter, Shari, took over that role in a deal in April attempting to avoid trial altogether. That accord also helped insulate Viacom and CBS Corp. -- Sumner Redstone is the controlling shareholder of both -- from the fallout of the dispute.
The trial will decide Herzer’s petition, filed in November, to be reinstated as the person who would make decisions about Redstone’s care if he were to become incapacitated.
Lawyers for Redstone claim Herzer, who was also cut from Redstone’s estate plan in October, is more concerned about securing the $50 million and the house she stood to receive upon his death than about his care.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Cowan previously decided that the case would cover only events in October with regard to Redstone’s mental capacity and any undue influence on him then, when Dauman was named as his health-care agent. If needed, a further trial would be scheduled to decide whether the April health-care directive naming Shari Redstone as his agent is valid.
The case is In re Advance Health Care Directive of Sumner M. Redstone, BP168725, Los Angeles County Superior Court.