Sumner Redstone willing to be deposed in competency lawsuit
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FILE PHOTO: Sumner Redstone, executive chairman of CBS Corp. and Viacom, arrives at the premiere of 'The Guilt Trip' in Los Angeles December 11, 2012. REUTERS/Fred Prouser
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By Ross Kerber
CANTON, Mass. (Reuters) - An attorney for Sumner Redstone said the media mogul would be willing to be interviewed briefly under oath in a lawsuit over his mental competency that could influence the future of his majority ownership of Viacom and CBS.
The issue arose as part of a lawsuit that is questioning whether the 93-year-old Redstone knew what he was doing when he removed Viacom Inc (NASDAQ: VIAB) Chief Executive Officer Philippe Dauman and fellow Viacom board member George Abrams in May from a seven-person trust.
The trust will control Redstone's majority ownership of Viacom and CBS Corp (NYSE: CBS) when he dies or is incapacitated.
At a hearing on Friday in Norfolk County Probate and Family Court in Canton, Massachusetts, Judge George Phelan set a Sept. 19 trial date. Redstone attorney Robert Klieger said his client would agree to a "brief" deposition in the run up to trial, though attorneys for Dauman are also seeking a medical exam of Redstone.
"We don't believe a further medical exam is necessary," Klieger said. Phelan set a hearing for Aug. 26 to discuss both the deposition and the medical exam.
Dauman and Abrams filed a lawsuit in Massachusetts, where the trust was established, contesting their removal from the trust and the board of National Amusements Inc, Redstone's privately held movie theater company. Through National Amusements, Redstone owns 80 percent of the voting shares of CBS and Viacom.
The outcome of the case, and who ends up with control over the trust, will have wide-ranging implications for Viacom and CBS shareholders and could result in changes at the top of both companies, possibly through mergers and acquisitions.
Abrams and Dauman claim Redstone suffers from dementia, impaired cognition, a slowness of mental processing, a loss of memory, apathy, depression, and has been manipulated by his daughter, Shari Redstone.
In a June court filing, Sumner Redstone called it "offensive and untrue" to suggest that he was being unduly influenced.
Redstone and National Amusements also moved to oust five Viacom directors in June, including Dauman and lead independent director Frederic Salerno, asking a court in Delaware to rule that the changes were valid. Salerno fired back with his own lawsuit challenging the removal. Viacom is incorporated in Delaware.
(Writing by Dan Levine; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and David Gregorio)
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