A battle has ensued over the future of Viacom, a $40 billion media empire founded and controlled by Sumner M. Redstone in 1987. Mr. Redstone recently turned 93 years old. His daughter, Ms. Shari Redstone, who was long estranged from her father, has now reconciled with him. As a result, Directors from Viacom allege that they have been pushed aside, and are challenging his mental capacity in court. The directors claim that Ms. Redstone is orchestrating an unlawful corporate takeover, and that she is manipulating her father to change the terms of the trust that control his companies. In response, Mr. Redstone’s legal team has asked the court to confirm the changes that he has made to the trust.
The claim alleges that things came to a head when Mr. Redstone suddenly and unexpectedly removed directors from the trust who were set to gain control over all of his companies, including Viacom. The directors immediately sought to block the moves on grounds that Mr. Redstone suffers from profound physical and mental illness, and is subject to the undue influence of his daughter. They further claim that the new arrangement tips the balance of power to her, giving her great control over the companies should Mr. Redstone pass away or become incapacitated.
According to Mr. Redstone’s legal team, there is no evidence to support these allegations, and he has been clear and unequivocal that the plaintiffs should be removed as trustees. The judge agreed, but did not rule on Mr. Redstone’s competency.
The plaintiffs assert that Mr. Redstone has not appeared in public for nearly a year, and can no longer stand, walk, read, write or speak coherently. They also claim that he requires a feeding tube to eat and drink, and his saliva must be manually suctioned around the clock to prevent breathing complications.
The lawsuit further alleges that Mr. Redstone’s daughter made changes to her father’s last will and testament. Allegedly, after years of estrangement, she has inserted herself into his home, and isolated him from everyone, including his business colleagues. The directors allege that these actions could have far-reaching negative consequences for thousands of Viacom’s shareholders and employees.
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