(Bloomberg) — Sumner Redstone lavished millions on his lovers. But there was only one Manuela Herzer.
That, anyway, is the argument lawyers for Herzer made Monday after the curtain dropped on one legal case and abruptly opened on another in the tawdry saga over the ailing media mogul and his $42 billion empire.
Minutes after a judge dismissed her first lawsuit — saying he was persuaded by testimony from Redstone, his speech unsteady with age, that he wanted nothing to do with his former housemate — Herzer filed a second that if nothing else will hold Hollywood rapt a while longer. She said she shared a “sublime relationship” with the 92-year-old billionaire and that his daughter executed an “insidious plan” to strip her of a $70 million inheritance.
That isn’t the way Redstone characterized their relationship in his videotaped testimony on Friday, in which he said flatly of the 52-year-old Herzer: “I hate her.” His profane descriptions of his feelings brought an end to her challenge to his mental competency and, with it, questions about the immediate future of CBS Corp. and Viacom Inc.
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Herzer’s lawyer said she would appeal the ruling dismissing the case. Minutes after that decision was issued, she filed the new complaint, claiming Shari Redstone, her two sons and members of the elder Redstone’s household staff interfered with her expected inheritance.
“I guess it shows it was all about the money after all,” said Jessica Babrick, a probate lawyer with Weinstock Manion in Los Angeles. She said Herzer will have a very hard time winning the case against Shari Redstone after failing to show that Sumner Redstone lacked mental capacity
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Cowan said Monday that 18 minutes of testimony, which the judge watched Friday, had been persuasive. “Though Herzer may have believed that Redstone would not be able to say anything, or be able to understand the questions, he did both,” Cowan said, though he noted he wasn’t “making any ultimate finding relating to Redstone’s mental capacity, one way or another, or whether he was unduly influenced.”
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A transcript of the testimony showed that Redstone, the controlling shareholder of CBS and Viacom, had difficulty speaking. But he was clear when he said wanted Herzer “out of my life.” The dismissed suit sought to have Redstone declared incompetent and Herzer reinstated as the agent making his health care decisions.
Meanwhile, Viacom’s board is likely to convene next week and discuss cutting Redstone’s pay, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter.
Herzer’s attorney, Pierce O’Donnell, said he was confident a jury in the new suit “will share our feeling that what happened to Sumner Redstone was not a product of free will but the product of an orchestrated, devious campaign.”
‘Unique and enduring’
In that suit, Herzer said her “unique and enduring”’ relationship with Redstone was a contrast to his “decades-long fractious relationship with his daughter.” Herzer dated Redstone from 1999 to 2001 and they remained friends as he dated and married other women, according to the suit. “While he had many girlfriends (at least five of whom he gave millions of dollars each), there was only one Herzer — a best friend for life,” according to the suit.
Herzer lived with Redstone from April 2013 until October, for much of that time along with his then-girlfriend Sydney Holland, she said, and his mental health declined rapidly after he broke off with Holland in August. Herzer accused Shari Redstone of spying on her, bribing her father’s staff to get information and deceiving her father to turn him again Herzer. “And she succeeded grandly,” she said in her new suit. “Sumner — in his horribly weakened and demented condition — believed the lies told to him by the collaborators and eventually decided that Herzer had betrayed him.”
Redstone cut Herzer out of his will when he evicted her and replaced her as his health care agent. She had been in line to receive $50 million and his mansion, valued at $20 million.
Shari Redstone said in court filings that her father’s health has improved since Herzer left. Keryn Redstone, the daughter of Redstone’s estranged son Brent, joined in the competency case to support Herzer, saying the “tempestuous and difficult” relationship between her grandfather and aunt necessitated that he be under court protection.