Redstone competence trial ends as judge tosses lawsuit
By Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Media mogul Sumner Redstone never set foot in the Los Angeles courtroom where his mental competency was on trial in recent days.
But the 92-year-old billionaire had the final word on Monday when Judge David Cowan, citing blunt videotaped testimony from Redstone, threw out a lawsuit brought by a former girlfriend challenging her removal from his healthcare directive.
"Redstone's testimony has ultimately defeated her case," Cowan wrote in a 17-page ruling that abruptly ended the lawsuit brought by the billionaire's ex-companion Manuela Herzer.
The quick end to a months-long and at times salacious legal drama was a clear victory for Redstone and his daughter Shari over who should handle the mogul's medical decisions.
If Herzer, 52, had proved her case, it could have triggered a chain of events that would result in the transfer of Redstone's controlling stake in media giants Viacom Inc (VIAB.O: Quote) and CBS Corp (CBS.N: Quote) to a seven-person trust that includes Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman and Shari Redstone.
Monday's decision did not address Redstone's ability to handle business matters at the two companies, where he controls roughly 80 percent of voting shares through his movie theater company National Amusements Inc. Any challenge to his competency to manage his shares would need to come from the trust.
The transfer of his shares to the trust is scheduled to take place upon his death unless he is found to be incompetent to manage them prior to that.
The judge’s dismissal means more uncertainty around the long-term future of CBS and Viacom, said Brian Wieser, an analyst at Pivotal Research Group. Continued...