Viacom and CBS President, Sumner Redstone, is back in the news this week. He removed Phillipe Dauman and George Abrams, who are directors of Viacom, as Trustees of one of his trusts. They are contesting their removal by alleging he is incompetent. In a huge twist of irony/self-preservation/whatever you want to call it, only six months ago they testified he was competent to remove a girlfriend as his health care proxy.
Three brief points:
1. The stakes in the previous battle involved who could make his health care decisions if he could not (while the real plot was whether he could change his will to disinherit his former girlfriend) while these stakes are who gets to control Viacom and CBS after Redstone’s death.
2. I think if Redstone is in a wheelchair, being fed by a feeding tube, and able to communicate only through an aide now, and was in the same condition six months ago, he was likely incompetent at both junctures.
3. Dauman and Abrams have reaped what they have sown. Being close to Redstone is like having an alligator as a pet – it might seem cool, but eventually it (i.e. he) will devour you.
The reports of a settlement between Sumner Redstone and Manuela Herzer over her replacement as his health care proxy were premature. There actually was a brief trial over the dispute which ended with the judge dismissing Herzer’s suit to remain as his health care decision maker. The judge relied on a 7 minute deposition of Redstone in which the few intelligible sentences he uttered were “Manuela is a ****ing bitch” (twice) and “I want Manuela out of my life. Yeah.” Of course Herzer’s attorneys have vowed to appeal.
1. This case remains about Redstone’s will which he changed at the same time as his health care power of attorney. Herzer was reportedly to receive $70 million at his death.
2. Herzer, who smartly declined an offer of marriage from Redstone, has reportedly received $75 million in gifts from him while the woman who did become his second wife only received $10 million because she signed a pre-nup.
3. While Redstone, like the recently deceased Prince, believes he will live forever, at least he has planned for his death by having a will and various trusts.
Ben Novack was the son of the builder of Miami’s Fountainebleu Hotel. Both he and his 86 year old mother were murdered at the behest of his wife of 18 years, a former stripper, within 3 weeks of each other in 2009 to collect his $10 million estate. His wife was convicted of his murder in 2012 and is now serving life in prison.
Amy Blumenthal moved to NYC and started seeing a psychiatrist, Dr. Susan Turner, to fulfill her prescriptions. Six months later Turner allegedly dropped Blumenthal as a patient, started dating her, and soon moved into her apartment. Blumenthal eventually re-wrote her will to leave her $7 million estate to Turner. Blumenthal died 3 1/2 years after starting the romantic relationship with Turner. Blumenthal’s brother, a hedge fund manager and owner of a swimwear line, is challenging the will on the grounds that Turner unduly influenced his sister in the preparation of her will.
Several quick points:
1. Although it is unethical for a psychiatrist to date a patient whom the psychiatrist is treating, it is not unethical for the psychiatrist to be named as a beneficiary of the patient’s will although an argument can be made that the psychiatrist unduly influenced the patient.
2. When a woman leaves her estate to her girlfriend of 3 1/2 years while ignoring her brother the hedge fund manager who is presumably well off, it is difficult to prove undue influence.
3. I thought that hedge fund managers only cared about billions, not single digit millions. I also did not think that they had sideline swimwear businesses.
I am an attorney located in Cincinnati, Ohio who practices in the areas of estate planning, probate, asset protection, and small business advice. I make a difficult and bewildering process as simple as possible. Most importantly, I provide "more for less" for my clients.