Redstone’s Capacity at Heart of Viacom Hearing

     CANTON, Mass. (CN) — Ousted Viacom executives who claim that Sumner Redstone is incapacitated focused for much of a hearing Thursday on the deteriorating condition of the 93-year-old’s signature.
     Former Viacom executives Phillipe Dauman and George Abrams say Redstone’s name on legal documents has deteriorated in recent months to little more than a scribble.
     The two brought the underlying lawsuit in late May, shortly after Redstone ordered them removed from the board of National Amusements, which controls Viacom and CBS.
     On the heels of a claim by Redstone’s longtime companion Manuela Herzer that Redstone is suffering from dementia, Dauman and Abrams accused Shari Redstone of pulling the strings to wrest control of her father’s $42 million media empire.
     Redstone’s deposition torpedoed Herzer’s suit in Los Angeles, but the woman’s attorney quickly pivoted to the Viacom executives’ action in Massachusetts.
     Pierce O’Donnell represents the mogul’s grandaughter, Keryn Redstone, who intervened in the case on behalf of the executives.
     He told the Norfolk Probate Court at Thursday’s hearing that Shari has resorting to putting a pen in Redstone’s hand and moving the paper under it to get his signature.
     “That flat-line signature is a tragically apt metaphor for Mr. Redstone’s capacity,” said O’Donnell of the Los Angeles firm Greenberg Glusker.
     Thursday’s hearing grew out of a defense motion to toss the case for improper venue.
     Though Redstone’s trust was originally established in Norwood, Massachusetts, and remains in that town, part of Norfolk County, Redstone himself lives in California.
     Aside from venue, Robert Klieger, who led Redstone’s case among a team of over a dozen attorneys, argued that the attacks on his client’s cognitive capacity contravene the parameters established by the National Amusement Trust to determine capacity.
     He argued that the lawsuit was little more than an attempt to halt activity at Redstone’s media companies, considering that a court order on Redstone’s mental health would not impact the trust’s process for establishing a replacement.
     “The plaintiffs want neither Mr. Redstone nor the trustees to make decisions about their companies,” said Klieger, an attorney with Hueston Hennigan in Los Angeles. “If Mr. Redstone can’t make the decision and if the successor trustees can’t make a decision because the trust’s standard of capacity has not been met, then we’re in this in-between-world where neither mr. redstone can take action nor can the trustees take action and everything at Viacom remains in place. That’s exactly what the plaintiffs want.”
     Klieger also argued that the trust’s parameters for determining mental capacity do not allow for retroactively nullifying Redstone’s decision.
     “It’s not an after-the-fact look back,” he said. “In this case, the plaintiffs did not invoke the procedures under the trust, prior to the decisions being made.”
     Dauman and Abrams’ attorneys are demanding a mental examination of Redstone.
     Judge George Phelan closed the hearing acknowledging that he “had a lot to digest.”

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