Sumner Redstone’s camp has released a statement that claims a renowned psychiatrist has confirmed the media mogul to be mentally capable of overseeing his empire.
Dr. James E. Spar, professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, concluded 93-year-old Redstone “retains the legal mental capacity” to have cut Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman and director George Abrams from the board of National Amusements, and control his companies.
The statement was released after Spar made a written evaluation of a May 20 meeting with Redstone, whose health has long been the central point of the war over Viacom’s future.
Dauman’s camp believes Redstone is being manipulated by his daughter, Shari Redstone, into wrestling control from them. She last week claimed she did not want to run Viacom or CBS, and instead planned to focus on her firm, Advancit Capital.
According to Spar, Redstone was “well dressed and groomed, alert and in no distress, and quite cooperative with the examination” during the meeting, and was in a similar state during a follow up on May 24.
The statement says Spar questioned why Redstone had axed Dauman from National Amusements, which controls both Viacom and CBS Corp., and was told: “‘He’s done a bad job running Viacom’.”
Redstone reportedly said Abrams was “not listening”, that he no longer trusted Abrams and Dauman, and that he had made several references to making “all the decisions about Viacom and CBS”.
Spar said Redstone was particularly disappointed by the Viacom board’s decision to sell a stake in Hollywood studio Paramount Pictures in order to raise funds, and that evidence of poor management was in the Viacom’s share price, which has tumbled over the past year.
“He spontaneously added that the value of the stock had gone up since his decisions about Mr. Dauman and Mr. Abrams had become public,” the statement added.
“Based upon the evaluations conducted on May 20 and May 24, 2016, I believe that Mr. Redstone retains the legal mental capacity to make the decisions he described to me on those dates regarding the National Amusements Board of Directors and the Trustees of the National Amusements Trust,” Spar wrote.
“Specifically, with respect to those decisions, Mr. Redstone clearly communicated to me that he understood and appreciated the rights, duties, and responsibilities affected by those decisions; the probable consequences for himself and the other persons affected by the decisions, and the significant risks, benefits, and reasonable alternatives involved in those decisions.
“Moreover, the changes he made seemed appropriate to me in light of recent events, and seemed to reflect his own, authentic wishes and preferences, and not the influence of any of the individuals in his environment.”
According to various US media news outlets, a lawyer for Dauman and Abrams struck back, claiming Redstone was “heard only through carefully crafted remarks distributed by his advisors”.
Les Fagen of Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton and Garrison, counsel to Philippe Dauman and George Abrams added that as it was made by a “paid medical consultant”, Dr. Spar’s evaluation “does not answer the question of whether Sumner Redstone had sufficient capacity to make complex decisions impacting the governance of billion dollar publicly-held corporations, nor does it acknowledge that undue influence was exercised to manipulate his views”.
“As for Dr. Spar’s report on Paramount, evidently neither the Dr. nor his patient understand that as yet there is no Paramount deal to oppose. Such a deal if it matures will be the subject of evaluation and review by all board members.”