- Dauman wants quick ruling on claim he was improperly removed
- Redstone says Dauman, Abrams ‘miscalculated’ his resolve
Sumner Redstone said the majority of the trustees who will one day oversee his $40 billion media empire support his ouster of Viacom Inc. Chief Executive Officer Philippe Dauman from the trust.
The backing of four out of seven trustees means Dauman and Viacom director George Abrams will be off the trust, and off the board of his National Amusements holding company, even if they were to prevail in their lawsuit challenging their removal, according to Redstone’s filing Friday in a Massachusetts probate court in Canton.
Dauman and Abrams “miscalculated not only Sumner’s resolve, but also the commitment of their fellow trustees to do the right thing," according to the filing.
The 93-year-old controlling shareholder of Viacom and CBS Corp. last month removed Dauman and Abrams from the trust and the board of the family holding company. Redstone said in Friday’s filing that he’s lost faith in Dauman, who he said would be accountable to no one if he controlled the trust at the same time as he’s chairman and chief executive of Viacom.
Dauman and Abrams sued May 23 over their ouster, claiming Redstone is mentally impaired and being manipulated by his daughter Shari. Dauman and Abrams say a speedy trial is needed to resolve the dispute because the trust’s assets are being threatened by Shari Redstone’s “invalid attempt” to take control of its majority stakes in Viacom and CBS.
A hearing on their request of an expedited trial is scheduled for June 7.
“There are many undisclosed facts that will emerge concerning the conduct of Shari and her representatives,” Les Fagen, a lawyer for the two ousted trustees, said in a statement Friday. “Even their own papers filed today reveal that the trustees as stated in the affidavits have not seen Sumner for as long as ‘many years.”’
Dauman and Abrams sought legal advice as early as January to counteract any attempt by him to remove them from the trust, according to Redstone.
“They shrugged off Sumner’s opposition to their shopping Paramount,” according to Friday’s filing by Redstone’s lawyers. “They ignored his requests for information regarding a potential Paramount transaction, as well as longterm strategic plans (if any) for Viacom as a whole. In short, plaintiffs treated Sumner as though he was already gone.”
The trustees who sided with Redstone’s ouster of Dauman and Abrams are, in addition to his daughter, his grandson Tyler Korff, David Andelman, a CBS director, and Leonard Lewin, a lawyer who represented Redstone’s first wife in their divorce. Redstone’s plans call for the trustees to take over when the media mogul dies or is ruled incompetent.
Andelman, Lewin, and a spokeswoman for Korff didn’t respond to requests for comment on Redstone’s court filing.
Norman Jacobs, a Boston attorney and trustee who didn’t ratify the decision to remove Dauman, said Redstone “was my client. He was a legend and a giant.”
“I want to be sure that every action I take is worthy of the trust he put in me,” Jacobs said in a phone interview. “I’m carrying out my responsibility as a trustee and at some point I’ll determine what the facts are.”
According to Redstone’s filing Friday, the trust specified that Shari Redstone would become chairman of both the family holding company and Viacom after he dies.
Dauman and Abrams claim their removal from the trust is part of a plot by Shari to assume control of Sumner Redstone’s business that he has “long refused her.” Shari was the sole Viacom director who voted against Dauman’s promotion to chairman when her billionaire father stepped down from that role in February.
Shari Redstone has called the allegations meritless. Sumner Redstone has filed a lawsuit in California seeking to have a judge there confirm that he’s allowed to remove and replace trustees at will.
Phyllis Redstone, Sumner’s first wife, Shari’s mother and a current trustee of the family trust, said in a separate declaration filed by Shari that she didn’t think her ex-husband was incapacitated and that she had no objection to his decision to remove Dauman and Abrams.
The case is Dauman v. Redstone, 16-E0020, Massachusetts Probate and Family Court, Norfolk County (Canton).