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Fissures in Media Empire Exposed By Redstone Trial

It’s almost always newsworthy when a friend or family member of a wealthy celebrity publishes a “tell all” book or files a lawsuit against the celebrity in question or against other people close to the celebrity. But all this gossip has to be taken with a grain of salt, especially if the person making the accusations never bothered to make them until after they were cut off from the celebrity. Money is a powerful motivator for a lot of people and it’s common for some to lash out after having been cut off.

The 92-year-old Sumner M. Redstone, a media mogul with a $42 billion media empire that includes CBS and Viacom, has been accused by his ex-girlfriend and long-time friend of losing his mental competence. The friend is 51-year-old Manuela Herzer, who first started dating Redstone back in 2000 when he was in the process of getting divorced from his first wife. Redstone asked Herzer to marry him, and although she turned him down, the two remained good friends and Herzer has reportedly been active in Redstone’s entertainment companies.

Herzer received gifts, real estate money, and tens of millions of dollars in cash from Redstone. She even moved into his $20 million mansion at his request, and he gave her the mansion in his will, along with an addition $50 million. Herzer helped make healthcare decisions for Redstone, along with Sydney Holland, whom he was dating at the time. Holland was ejected from the home in 2015 after admitting to having been unfaithful, at which point Herzer said she took over the management of Redstone’s healthcare.

That all ended suddenly last October when Herzer was ejected from both the mansion and Redstone’s will in one fell swoop.

Herzer said in her complaint that Redstone’s health was deteriorating rapidly and that cutting her off was a direct result of the undue influence he was under from his daughter, Shari Redstone, and a nurse. Herzer claims Shari and the nurse are just using Redstone for financial gain, but they are making the same claims about Herzer.

Herzer insists the lawsuit is about Redstone’s wellbeing and nothing more. Her claims are backed up by Keryn Redstone, Sumner’s granddaughter and Shari’s niece. Keryn alleges her grandfather has been basically imprisoned in his own home and that Shari had threatened both Keryn and Sumner. Shari denies all these allegations.

The real meat of the lawsuit is Herzer’s allegations of Redstone’s deteriorating mental competence. A psychiatrist who examined Redstone is expected to testify for Herzer’s case that Redstone’s mental capacity was not sound enough for him to be able to fully understand the implications of removing Herzer from the healthcare directive that would have given her supervision over Redstone’s health care. But attorneys for Redstone argue the psychiatrist’s report was manipulated by Herzer’s attorney.

The Court dismissed all of Herzer’s claims when the trial got underway after Redstone using colorful language in his video taped testimony despite his impaired and aged condition made it clear he wanted nothing to with her.  If the court had ruled in Herzer’s favor and found that Redstone was not currently of sound mind, it would have resulted in a battle for power over his media empire, which he is currently still controlling.  Now the transition over to his daughter may be somewhat smoother but the trial turned into a great embarrassment for the family and exposed fissures in a family controlled business (in this case two publicly traded companies) that often arise in closely held family businesses.Super Lawyers named Illinois business trial attorneys Peter Lubin and Vincent DiTommaso Super Lawyers in the Categories of Class Action, Business Litigation and Consumer Rights Litigation. DiTommaso Lubin Austermuehle’s Illinois business trial lawyers have over a quarter of century of experience in litigating complex class action, copyright, non-compete agreement, trademark and libel suits, consumer rights and many different types of business and commercial litigation disputes including lawsuits between businesses or between shareholders and owners of the same business.  Our Wilmette and Highland Park business dispute lawyers handle emergency business law suits involving copyrights, trademarks, injunctions, and TROS, covenant not to compete, franchise, distributor and dealer wrongful termination and trade secret lawsuits and many different kinds of business disputes involving shareholders, partnerships, closely held businesses and employee breaches of fiduciary duty. Our Chicago business trial and business dispute attorneys also assist businesses and business owners in Cook, Lake, Kane, Kendall and DuPage Counties who are victims of fraud. You can contact us by calling (630) 333-0000 or our toll free number (877) 990-4990.  You can also contact us online here.