BOSTON – Media mogul Sumner Redstone, fighting back against charges that he’s mentally incapacitated, said Friday that not only is he competent but he was backed by a majority of trustees when he stripped Viacom’s CEO of key positions last month.
The 93-year-old Redstone, through his lawyers, responded in a written filing to a lawsuit filed last month by Viacom chief executive Philippe Dauman and board member George Abrams.
Dauman and Abrams sued in Norfolk Probate Court in Canton after Redstone stripped them of their positions. They argue Redstone is not mentally competent and is being manipulated by his daughter, Shari Redstone.
Lawyers for Redstone say in their court filing he has the mental capacity and authority to make business decisions. His filing also says he has the support of a majority of the trustees, who ratified his removal of Dauman and Abrams on Sunday.
The lawsuit filed by Dauman and Abrams seeks to block Redstone from removing them as trustees of the Sumner M. Redstone National Amusements Trust and as board members of National Amusements Inc. Redstone controls about 80 per cent of the voting shares of Viacom through those entities.
Viacom Inc., a media conglomerate based in New York, owns the Paramount Pictures movie studio and pay TV channels such as MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and BET.
In the court filing Friday, Redstone’s lawyers said he has been examined twice in the past two weeks by a well-known geriatric psychiatrist, Dr. James Spar, including on the day he removed Dauman and Abrams from their positions. Spar said Redstone is “clearly communicating” his business decisions, which “reflect his own authentic wishes and preferences.”
Redstone’s lawyers also said he is not being manipulated by his once-estranged daughter to take control of his businesses.
An attorney for Dauman and Abrams, Les Fagen, said Redstone is being heard only through carefully crafted remarks distributed by his advisers.
“This evaluation was conducted by a paid medical consultant and does not answer the question of whether Sumner Redstone had sufficient capacity to make complex decisions impacting the governance of billion dollar publicly-held corporations, nor does it acknowledge that undue influence was exercised to manipulate his views,” Fagen said in a statement.
Redstone’s lawyers asked the judge hearing the lawsuit to deny a request by Dauman and Abrams for an expedited trial. A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.