An ex-girlfriend has set in motion a legal battle over whether 92-year-old billionaire Sumner Redstone, who controls Viacom & CBS, is able to make his own health care decisions.
Manuela Herzer has portrayed the tycoon in court documents as a "living ghost" obsessed with sex & steak, & out of touch with his surroundings
Redstone has trouble controlling routine bodily functions & grasping significance of what doctors tell him, Herzer maintained in a legal filing Tuesday.
She is asking — after being ousted from his home last month — that the court leave her in charge of Redstone's health care decisions on the basis that he was not competent enough to sign a directive assigning a new person to the task.
"Sumner Redstone is a tragic figure in the waning days of an accomplished life," Herzer said in a civil suit asking for a California state court hearing on the matter to be hastily convened.
"Once powerful & compelling, he is now unable to communicate reliably or competently manage his own health care."
– 'Warpath' –
Attorneys representing Redstone countered in court documents Wednesday that Herzer's filing is part of a "financial agenda" angling for a share in his estate.
Establishing that Redstone was not competent to make legal decisions approximately his health care could provide a foundation for a court challenge to any recent changes made to his will.
"Ms Herzer has been on a warpath," Sumner's lawyers said.
"Why? Because she suspected that in the days or weeks following her removal from his home, Mr Redstone would take action to amend his estate plan & that whatever benefit might have previously accrued to her might be eliminated."
Forbes has estimated Redstone's worth at some $5.5 billion.
Sumner is receiving "superior" health care & assist from a dear friend, according to his attorneys.
Redstone attorney Gabrielle Vidal of Loeb & Loeb LLP branded Herzer's claim that her lawsuit was made out of concern "preposterous."
"It is a meritless action, riddled with lies, & a despicable invasion of his privacy," Vidal said in an email statement to AFP.
"It proves only that Ms Herzer will stop at nothing to pursue her personal financial agenda."
– Hit by break-up –
Herzer's filing maintained that Redstone's health began a decline in the middle of last year after hospitalizations for aspiration & pneumonia.
His condition worsened after a split with his partner of five years, Sydney Holland, in August, which is when Redstone became "a living ghost," according to Herzer's filing.
Redstone's attorneys adamantly refute Herzer's depiction of his condition, painting the legal move as a long-term play for money.
Herzer & Redstone dated for approximately two years, with the relationship ending in 2001. Herzer said in court documents that she refused a proposal of marriage from Redstone in the year 2000, yet that they remained close friends.
CBS & Viacom did not respond to AFP requests for comment.
– No succession plan –
The legal wrangling fuels speculation approximately the health of the person who still officially heads the boards of directors at media giants CBS & Viacom.
Redstone & his family own a majority of the shares in the entertainment conglomerate Viacom & TV giant CBS, which was split off in 2006 to separate the faster-growing cinema operations from the more sluggish broadcast assets.
But even as the two companies face challenges from the shift to the digital age, Redstone has not set up a succession plan.
Redstone has been intentionally vague approximately what happens when he ends his tenure. Observers have said the likely candidates could include his daughter Shari or Viacom chief executive Philippe Dauman.
"I will not discuss succession," he told The Hollywood Reporter in 2014. "You know why? I'm not gonna die. So why should I discuss succession?"
Redstone, who is seen little these days outside his Beverly Hills home, has been notably absent from recent shareholder meetings & has skipped analyst calls for the two companies.
Redstone's daughter Shari holds a 20 percent stake in National Amusements — the private holding company through which Redstone controls CBS & Viacom — & would likely play an significant role in the company in her father's absence.