In a surprise move last night (May 20), media mogul Sumner Redstone removed Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman and Viacom board member George Abrams from his trust, which will control Viacom and CBS after Redstone, who is 92, dies or is declared incompetent, reports Fortune.
Dauman and Abrams were also informed via a fax of their removal as directors from the board of National Amusements, which has 80% of voting power in the two companies.
The development sets up Redstone’s once-estranged daughter, Shari, to control the seven-person trust and his $40 billion media empire. Shari Redstone, vice chairwoman of CBS and Viacom, is a member of the trust, along with her son Tyler Korff and mother’s divorce attorney, Leonard Lewin. Redstone and his daughter recently reconciled their rocky relationship after years of public disagreements.
In a statement, Dauman called the maneuver “invalid and illegal” and “a shameful effort by Shari Redstone to seize control by unlawfully using her ailing father Sumner Redstone’s name and signature.”
Referring to the recently dismissed case by a former girlfriend questioning Redstone’s mental capacity, Dauman said “Sumner Redstone now lacks the capacity to have taken these steps.”
Redstone’s lawyer responded that Dauman recently testified that Redstone was “engaged, attentive and as opinionated as ever.” In a statement, he added that Redstone “took decisive and lawful action today which he firmly believes is in the best interest of Viacom Inc. and its stockholders.”