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Saturday, December 9, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Saturday, December 9, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Redstone Sues Ex Who Challenged Competency

LOS ANGELES (CN) - Sumner Redstone has sued the ex-girlfriend who challenged his competency for elder abuse, extending a long-running legal soap opera that has captivated Hollywood and jolted the mogul's $40 billion media empire.

In the ailing 93-year-old's lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Court on Tuesday, he accused defendants Manuela Herzer and Sydney Holland — both his ex-girlfriends — of taking control of his life beginning in 2010, isolating him from his family. He claims he "fell victim to financial and emotional abuse at the hands of two women many years his junior."

"They isolated Redstone from family and friends. They terminated his doctors, nurses, household staff, and longtime advisors and brought in handpicked replacements. They decided who came and went from the residence. They spoke for Redstone when he lost his ability to vocalize [Redstone suffers from a speech impediment]. Redstone entrusted Holland and Herzer with all aspects of his personal and financial affairs — essentially everything but his businesses," the 30-page complaint states.

Herzer's attorney Ronald Richards said the lawsuit is without merit.

"My client has a 20-year close personal relationship with Mr. Redstone that can't be erased by the filing of a civil complaint that lists incomplete, misleading, and false allegations," Richards wrote in an email. "The lawsuit is an attempt to distract us from Ms. Herzer's bona fide disinheritance claims against Sheri Redstone."

Herzer called into question Redstone's ability to make his own health care decision in a legal challenge last year. During a brief trial, Judge David Cowan ruled that the Viacom and CBS tycoon had made clear in a video deposition that he wanted Herzer out of his life.

Cowan then threw out the suit.

Herzer quickly filed another $100 million lawsuit claiming she was deprived of an inheritance when Redstone removed her from his advance health care directive in September 2015. That claim is still pending in state court.

Redstone's latest lawsuit paints the women as manipulative and greedy. He says that Herzer and Holland "abused their positions of trust" telling him that his daughter Shari Redstone and his grandchildren "hated him and did not care enough to call or visit" and that only they loved and cared about him.

"They manipulated and emotionally abused Redstone to get what they wanted — jewelry, designer clothing, real estate in Beverly Hills, New York, and Paris, and money, lots of it," the lawsuit states.

By the time Redstone banished the two women from his Beverly Hills residence, they had taken more than $150 million in gifts, according to his lawsuit.

"Herzer and Holland took far more than Redstone's money. They took five of the last years of his life," the lawsuit says. "They took time away from his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. They took his pride and his dignity."

Redstone is suing for elder abuse, breach of fiduciary duty, constructive fraud, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He seeks damages and costs.

Redstone's attorney Robert Klieger of Hueston Hennigan did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A statement issued by Holland's attorney on her behalf called the lawsuit "fictional revisionist history."

"Doctors have testified twice in recent months that Sumner Redstone was of sound mind and, most recently, that he was mentally competent to make such critical and complex business decisions as orchestrating the departure of his long-serving chief executive at Viacom, changing its board of directors and, currently, exploring a merger between CBS and Viacom. This is directly contradicted by the claims in this lawsuit that state that Mr. Redstone's physical and mental state were so impaired that he could be easily manipulated. Both cannot be true," the statement said.

"The fact is, Mr. Redstone's attorneys and doctors vetted and approved all payments to Ms. Holland. Out of respect and caring for Mr. Redstone, Ms. Holland has stayed out of the recent legal fray and did not assert claims that she has against Shari Redstone for spying on her and for other harm she has suffered. Ms. Holland will now be forced to publicly set out Shari and Sumner's actions.

"To Shari Redstone's chagrin, Mr. Redstone was fully competent and determined to live his life as he chose with Sydney Holland and included her in his will and in other documents that were vetted by his lawyers. Ms. Holland does not believe the claims in this lawsuit are Mr. Redstone's sentiments, but rather are those of Shari Redstone. It is sad that Ms. Redstone is using her vendetta against Ms. Holland to destroy her father's reputation and legacy as an entertainment industry visionary."

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