Photo Credit: LA Times
At age 93, billionaire media mogul Sumner Redstone is spending his sunset years engaged in rather unpleasant business - estate litigation. Redstone, founder of the Viacom-CBS entertainment empire, has been in the headlines over the past year due to a spate of lawsuits brought by two former girlfriends who challenged his will and mental capacity, with sums in the millions at stake. Now he's filing a $150 million lawsuit against the two women, alleging elder abuse, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The first public sign that all was not well in the House of Redstone came in October of 2015, when the kingpin behind National Amusements disinherited lady friend Sydney Holland and confidante Manuela Herzer from his estate. He eliminated Herzer as the holder of his advanced health care directive and withdrew the $70 million in assets he had set aside for her upon his death. He also kicked the pair out of his house and arranged for daughter Shari Redstone to make her way back into his life as the new heir apparent to a sprawling multibillion-dollar corporate enterprise. Not one to be pushed aside so easily, Herzer pursued claims of undue influence (based on Redstone's diminished capacity) in Los Angeles County Superior Court, only to have the suit dismissed in May of this year.
Redstone, his daughter and legal team have decided to answer Herzer in kind, initiating another round of litigation that will likely leave everyone more miserable aside from the litigators themselves. When Herzer and Holland were ensconced in Redstone's life, the new lawsuit alleges, they convinced him to cash in on Viacom/CBS stock options and treat each of them to a sweet $45 million in cash. This generous gesture, however, left Redstone holding the bag on massive tax obligations incurred through gifting. In addition, Herzer and Holland splurged on shopping sprees from the boutiques of Beverly Hills to the salons of Paris and secured themselves choice real estate. Based on the accounts of a nurse working inside his residence, Redstone's complaint also alleges that:
- Herzer and Holland convinced Redstone that his family hated him in order to gain more of his estate assets. If they left, they said, he "would die alone."
- Herzer and Holland would use sedatives to keep Redstone from making estate decisions not in their favor and sign documents for their benefit.
- Herzer and Holland would "berate" and emotionally manipulate Redstone in order to keep him under their control.
If the charges in Redstone's complaint are indeed true, they'd constitute clear elder financial abuse. With accusations traded back and forth by all parties, it's hard to determine exactly who has the truth on their side - with the law to back them up. If there's any life lesson in store from the drama, we might as well concede that unhappy people will use their riches to purchase even more unhappiness. Read the PDF of the complaint below: