Sumner Redstone Ex-Girlfriend Won’t Get New Competency Trial

  • Los Angeles probate judge rejects Manuela Herzer’s request
  • Herzer lost earlier bid to challenge media mogul’s fitness

A former girlfriend and confidante of Sumner Redstone won’t get a new trial to argue the 93-year-old media billionaire was mentally incompetent when he evicted her from his mansion last year and replaced her as his health-care agent.

A probate court judge in Los Angeles Monday denied Manuela Herzer’s request for a new trial. The same judge in May dismissed Herzer’s case after one day of trial, finding that Redstone’s videotaped deposition made it clear he didn’t want her in his life any longer.

“Redstone has made it abundantly clear that he does not want this person whom he no longer views as a friend to be in charge of his medical care,” Superior Court Judge David Cowan said in a ruling issued at a hearing. “A true ‘miscarriage of justice’ would have been to grant Herzer’s request and force upon Redstone, against his will, someone who he so avowedly declared he did not want making health care decisions for him and whom he distrusts.”

Redstone’s eviction of Herzer in October and her subsequent court petition to have him declared mentally incapacitated were the opening salvos in an all-out war that now pits the controlling shareholder of Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp. against his long-time protege, Viacom Chief Executive Officer Philippe Dauman, in courts in California, Massachusetts, and Delaware.

The disputes also raise the question of whether Redstone’s daughter Shari, a rival to Dauman, is pulling the strings for control of his media empire.

Dauman, who initially vouched for Redstone’s mental acuity when Herzer went to court, has since adopted the ex-girlfriend’s allegations that he’s being manipulated by Shari Redstone.

Holding Company

Shortly after Redstone got Herzer’s case dismissed in May, he removed Dauman and another long-time confidante, George Abrams, from the board of his holding company and from the trust that will control Viacom and CBS when Redstone dies or is found incapacitated.

In her request for a new trial, Herzer compared Redstone to William Shakespeare’s demented King Lear, duped by a daughter angling to take over his realm. Herzer cited the removal of Dauman and Abrams as further evidence that Redstone is under Shari Redstone’s “undue influence.”

At Monday’s hearing, Herzer’s lawyer said the previous trial left unresolved the question why Redstone turned against Herzer.

“The question that wasn’t answered is how Mr. Redstone reached this opinion,” attorney Pierce O’Donnell said. “How did he get there?”

Herzer has separately sued Shari Redstone, claiming she interfered with an inheritance that would have been worth about $70 million.

Sumner Redstone’s lawyer said in opposition to Herzer’s request that this “new evidence” is irrelevant because the case was thrown out after the judge concluded that, whatever Redstone’s reasons for replacing Herzer as his health-care agent, he no longer trusts her and that by itself made it impossible for her to make decisions for him. The judge, in dismissing Herzer’s petition in May, didn’t rule on Redstone’s mental capacity or on the question whether he was unduly influenced.

The case is In re: Advance Health Care Directive of Sumner M. Redstone, BP168725, Superior Court of California, Los Angeles County.

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