Media mogel Sumner Redstone charges his two girlfriends with an elaborate scheme to isolate him from family and close friends in order to drain his bank accounts and enhance their position in his estate plan.
Two of Sumner Redstone’s former long-time girlfriends, Manuela Herzer and Sydney Holland, took $150 million in cash, jewelry, designer clothing, and real estate by emotionally abusing and controlling the billionaire, Redstone claims in a lawsuit recently filed to recover his assets.
The charge is that the two allegedly took so much from Redstone, such as matching $45 million checks in a single day in 2014 that he was pushed into debt by the gifts and the enormous taxes that went with them. The lawsuit accuses the two of elder abuse, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and infliction of emotional distress.
Holland issued a statement saying Redstone’s attorneys and doctors vetted and approved all payments to her. Herzer’s attorney, Ronald Richards, said the suit “has no merit whatsoever” and turned blame for the dispute on Redstone’s daughter, Shari. He argues that Redstone is trying to detract from Herzer’s legitimate claims that she was improperly disinherited by the billionaire.
The two women, who lived at the media tycoon’s Beverly Park estate in Los Angeles, were tossed out by the billionaire within six weeks of each other in 2015. Redstone discovered that Holland cheated on him and Herzer had blocked him from contact with family and friends, the complaint says. Herzer’s attempt to force her way back into Redstone’s life last year alerted him to his isolated situation and made him try to regain control of his life and affairs, his lawyers said.
All of this resulted in Redstone removing two of his long-time confidants—Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman and Viacom board member George Abrams—from the trust that will eventually determine control of his valuable shares in Viacom and CBS Corp.
The lawsuit claims that the two ladies “terminated his doctors, nurses, household staff, and longtime advisers and brought in handpicked replacements,” adding: “They decided who came and went from the residence. They spoke for Redstone when he lost his ability to vocalize.” Herzer and Holland abused these positions of trust when the tycoon, who’s 93, was most vulnerable—homebound and forced to eat through a feeding tube with a severe speech impediment.
“Herzer and Holland took far more than Redstone’s money,” the suit charges. “They took five of the last years of his life. They took time away from his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They took his pride and dignity.”
Rather than fighting each other, Herzer and Holland decided to join forces to cut out other rivals, the suit says.
The two schemed to free up large sums that Redstone had tied up in stock options and stock, the suit claims. That plan worked until May 2014, when they persuaded Redstone to sell the stock options and other stock worth about $100 million. “Later that same day, Redstone made two transfers, $45 million each,” the suit says, “to the personal bank accounts of Holland and Herzer.”
The gifts made for a lose-lose situation for Redstone because the gift and generation-skipping taxes triggered from the two transfers had to be paid for with money borrowed from his National Amusements holding company, the suit says.
“By June 2014, an 'amended and restated' estate plan was in place,” the lawsuit states, “and Holland and Herzer were firmly in control.” But contact with his daughter and grandchildren helped to convince Redstone that something was wrong. Later in 2014, when hospitalized at Cedars Sinai Medical Center, the billionaire allegedly told Holland, “I want my $45 million back.”
Reference: Variety (October 25, 2016) “Sumner Redstone Sues Two Ex-Companions for $150 Million”