Philippe Dauman and George Abrams have filed a lawsuit to invalidate their removal as directors of National Amusements, the private company that controls publicly traded media firms Viacom and CBS.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Probate and Family Court injunction seeks immediate judicial relief and court ruling to invalidate what it calls “the purported removal” of Dauman and Abrams as trustees of a Redstone Family Trust, as well.
“Shari Redstone is attempting to illegally hijack her father’s well-established estate plan by removing professional managers and reportedly installing her daughter, an employee and a friend who are firmly under her control,” Dauman said in a Monday statement. “We all continue to have great respect and affection for Mr. Redstone, but he is clearly being manipulated by his daughter, Shari. After years of estrangement, she has inserted herself into his home, taken over his life, and isolated him from anyone not under her control, including long-time business colleagues.”
“In fact, she has recently and repeatedly arranged to deny requests for Viacom Board members to meet with her father,” he continued. “Her singular goal is to assume complete control of his businesses, despite Mr. Redstone’s long-term desire for a professionally managed Trust and an independent Board of Directors. Shari’s actions amount to an unlawful corporate takeover, and if effectuated, could have far-reaching consequences for thousands of shareholders and employees of Viacom.”
“My sole purpose in joining in this law suit is to allow a court to determine whether Sumner Redstone, in his current diminished capacity, has been subject to undue influence in his recent actions in changing his Trustees and in changing other documents,” Abrams added. “For over 25 years Sumner has discussed his will and various Trusts with me and I was instrumental in setting up this Trust at the time of his divorce. He has impressed on me his wishes that the Trust be managed in a professional manner and that the children of the son and his daughter be treated fairly and equally despite some internal family conflicts.”
“He also discussed at length with me his feelings about Viacom and CBS and the future of both companies,” that ousted board member continued. “The changes purportedly being made would alter his previously and repeatedly expressed wishes. As a result of some of the information which has recently been received, I believe a court test on the question of undue influence is necessary.”
Shari Redstone is part of a group that controls the future of both CBS and Viacom. Her father, Sumner, unceremoniously removed Dauman and George Abrams from those ranks last Friday night. Some — including those at Viacom — clearly believe Sumner is too incapacitated to make such a decision, and that Shari is taking advantage of the situation to remove her rivals.
The shocking move did seem a bit odd, as Sumner had championed Dauman through most of his career — and Shari clearly never wanted her father’s French protege to take the reins of Viacom. The rest of the board seemed fine with that notion of new leadership at the time, handing Dauman the chairman title that previously belonged to Sumner, who is now chairman emeritus.
However, Viacom hasn’t exactly been a success story for the ages as of late under Dauman’s leadership — read about its rough recent 22 months here.