SAN FRANCISCO • An ex-girlfriend has set in motion a legal battle over whether 92-year-old billionaire Sumner Redstone, who controls Viacom and CBS, is able to make his own healthcare decisions.
Ms Manuela Herzer, 51, has portrayed him in court documents as a "living ghost" obsessed with sex and steak, and out of touch with his surroundings. He has trouble controlling routine bodily functions or grasping the significance of what doctors tell him, she maintained in a legal filing on Tuesday.
She was ousted from his home last month and is now asking the court to leave her in charge of his healthcare decisions as he is not competent enough to sign a directive assigning someone new to the task.
"Sumner Redstone is a tragic figure in the waning days of an accomplished life," she said in a civil suit asking for a California state court hearing on the matter to be hastily convened. "Once powerful and compelling, he is now unable to communicate reliably or competently manage his own healthcare."
His attorneys countered in court documents on Wednesday that the filing is part of a "financial agenda" angling for a share in his estate.
Establishing that he is not competent to make legal decisions about his own healthcare could provide a foundation for a court challenge to any recent changes made to his will.
"Ms Herzer has been on a warpath," his lawyers said. "Why? Because she suspected that, in the days or weeks following her removal from his home, Mr Redstone would take action to amend his estate plan, and that whatever benefit might have previously accrued to her might be eliminated."
Forbes has put Mr Redstone's worth at US$5.5 billion (S$7.7 billion). He is receiving "superior" healthcare and help from a dear friend, said his attorneys.
Redstone attorney Gabrielle Vidal of Loeb & Loeb said Ms Herzer's claim that her lawsuit was made out of concern was "preposterous".
"It is a meritless action, riddled with lies, and a despicable invasion of his privacy," Ms Vidal said in an e-mail statement to Agence France-Presse. "It proves only that Ms Herzer will stop at nothing to pursue her personal financial agenda."