Viacom Director: Sumner Redstone Move to Oust Aides Is ‘Unsettling and Sad’

Lawyer George Abrams assails Redstone’s camp’s moves to eject close aides from inner circle

A longtime attorney for Sumner Redstone has called the latest moves in the war over the Viacom media empire “unsettling and sad.”

In a statement, George Abrams, who has served the ailing mogul for more than 50 years, criticized the actions of the Redstone camp late Friday in removing Abrams and Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman from a trust that could control the company.

“The Sumner Redstone I knew would never have taken this action,” Abrams wrote. “What is going on now is unsettling and sad.”

This week the struggle for control over Viacom – the media giant whose assets include Paramount Pictures and Comedy Central – exploded into a full-scale war. After Friday’s move against Dauman and Abrams, the longtime aides accused Redstone’s daughter Shari of manipulating him into ridding his inner circle of former intimates. Shari Redstone’s real goal, they said, was to gain complete control of Viacom as well as National Amusements, the theater chain also controlled by Sumner Redstone.

Fred Salerno, the lead independent director at Viacom, likewise expressed displeasure with the Redstone team. The board recently decided to eliminate Sumner Redstone’s salary because it believed the 92-year-old mogul was no longer capable of being involved in the business.

“We took this action based upon his recent complete lack of communication with the Viacom Board and management team and his silence during recent board meetings, as well as recent public disclosures raising concerns about his health,” Salerno wrote. He added that he had been denied a request for a face-to-face meeting with Sumner Redstone.