NEW YORK (Reuters) - Viacom’s Chief Executive Philippe Dauman, who is suing over his removal from Sumner Redstone’s trust, on Monday said in a court filing that a judge should expedite the matter because the 93-year-old media mogul is in ill health and may soon not be able to provide needed evidence.
Saying “time is of the essence,” the filing in Massachusetts state court describes Redstone as unable to “speak, stand, walk, eat, write or read.”
A spokesman for Redstone did not have an immediate comment.
Last month, Redstone removed Dauman and Viacom board member George Abrams from the trust that would determine the future of CBS Corp (CBS.N) and Viacom after controlling shareholder Redstone, 93, dies or is declared mentally incapacitated.
The pair were also removed from the board of Redstone’s National Amusements Inc, a private movie theater company that holds 80 percent of Viacom’s and CBS’s voting stock.
The outcome of the Massachusetts case and a similar one in California, and who ends up controlling the trust and the National Amusements board, will have wide-ranging implications for Viacom and CBS and could result in changes at the top of both companies, possibly through mergers and acquisitions.
A judge is expected to hear arguments on Dauman’s request to expedite discovery and a trial on Tuesday. The executive and Abrams sued in May, saying their removal from Redstone’s trust amounted to an unlawful corporate takeover by Redstone’s daughter Shari Redstone.
Dauman and Abrams’ lawsuit questions Redstone’s mental competence and argue that Redstone is being manipulated by his daughter.
Shari Redstone’s lawyers have asked the court to reject Viacom’s request to move up the trial, arguing in court filings the executives were only motivated by self-interest.
They have also countered in court filings with testimony from a doctor who examined the elderly Redstone and found the billionaire had the mental capacity needed to take Dauman and Abrams off his trust.
Monday’s filing also defends Dauman’s previous statements from a November affidavit in another lawsuit of Redstone’s competency describing Sumner Redstone as “engaged” and “attentive.”
The filing notes those characteristics “could be attributed to a person who lacks the relevant capacity and who is simply unable to fully process information delivered to him no matter how engaged or attentive he is.” It also argues that it its likely Redstone’s health has declined since November.
Dauman is asking for a trial by the end of September.
Reporting by Anna Driver and Jessica Toonkel; Editing by Nick Zieminski