Photo Credit: AP
Losing out in a relationship can be hard, but losing a ruling with millions potentially at stake is even worse. In the never-ending Sumner Redstone estate litigation battle, former girlfriend and caretaker Manuela Herzer has been denied a new trial concerning her displacement within the household (i.e. out of the 93-year-old billionaire media mogul's will and his life) in October of 2015. Despite the context of an ongoing power struggle within Viacom, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David Cowan is pouring cold water on claims of manipulation and undue influence.
With no evidence cited by Judge Cowan as grounds for a new trial, Herzer's case against Redstone has cynics raising their eyebrows at her line of reasoning. The tentative ruling in place awaits finalization, but things are not looking up for Herzer's case. Judge Cowan seems to affirm Redstone's adamant indications that she is no longer welcome in his life. Following this ruling, Herzer is now expected to continue with appeals and pursue damages against daughter Shari Redstone.
When Redstone kicked Herzer out of his estate, she not only lost $50 million in cash and a $20 million Beverly Hills house, she was also removed as his designated caregiver. Herzer had challenged the move, but Cowan dismissed her case. Redstone, free of his ex, proceeded with some spring cleaning this year by purging Viacom CEO Phillipe Dauman, and colleague George Abrams from the Sumner Murray Redstone National Amusements Inc. Trust. Despite having initially accused Dauman of also exercising undue influence over Redstone, the two now find themselves in a fight against Shari, who many insiders think is driving the agenda behind the Viacom shakeup.
Both Herzer and Dauman look no further for the source of their troubles with Sumner Redstone than his daughter. After periods of estrangement, Herzer and Dauman assert, Shari is barging back into Redstone's life for her own benefit. Shari denies all claims of undue influence, saying that her father makes his own decisions. Yet, as she gains power within the ailing Redstone's media empire (and a possibly a bigger share of his trust), claims undue of influence and questions about Redstone's capacity are difficult to ignore. That said, with Shari backed by her father's powerful legal team and no movement in Los Angeles County Superior Court, the prospects for both Herzer and Dauman's continuing litigation efforts are looking grim.
Like his media and entertainment operations, Sumner Redstone's last-hurrah estate drama spans from the West to East Coasts, with court actions in California, Delaware and Massachusetts. As far as matters of probate, estate and trust litigation go, this story is massive in scope and potential corporate fallout. While Herzer's case was lost in pursuing claims of undue influence over her former companion, the probate struggle is not yet finished. Both Herzer and Dauman are promising appeals and new lawsuits tailor-made for Redstone's newfound protégé, Shari.