Sumner Redstone dismisses ex-lover in court testimony

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Los Angeles (AFP)

Ailing media mogul Sumner Redstone says he wants his former companion out of his life, repeatedly using expletives to describe her in videotaped testimony.

The 92-year-old billionaire, who is the controlling shareholder of Viacom and CBS, told a Los Angeles court that he hated Manuela Herzer, who brought a lawsuit challenging his mental competency after she was ejected from his home last fall.

In a halting 18-minute deposition taken at his Beverly Hills home on Thursday, Redstone repeatedly referred to his former live-in girlfriend as a "fucking bitch."

"I hate her... I want Manuela out of my life," he said.

Reporters and the public in attendance were cleared from the courtroom while Redstone's deposition was played back as the trial got underway Friday. A transcript was released afterward.

Redstone's testimony is sure to be scrutinized closely and the outcome of the trial could have an impact on his $40 billion media empire that includes MTV, Comedy Central and Paramount Pictures.

If Redstone is found incompetent, his associates could push for him to be removed as the controlling shareholder of Viacom and CBS.

Herzer filed her lawsuit claiming Redstone was mentally incompetent after he evicted her in October and cut her out of his will.

Her attorney Pierce O'Donnell said during opening statements that Redstone's 62-year-old daughter Shari, his nursing staff and others in his entourage had essentially staged a "coup" and "brainwashed" him into dumping her.

"His decision was not that of a sound mind," O'Donnell said.

He added that Redstone's poor health was apparent during his deposition, during which questions had be repeatedly reformulated and which at one point was briefly interrupted so that his dentures could be adjusted.

The mogul's attorney Robert Klieger, however, said that while his client may have trouble communicating, he was of sound mind and decided on his own to remove Herzer as his caregiver.

"He knew exactly what he was doing," Klieger said. "He didn't want her in that position and he removed her.

"He had the capacity to make that decision and he made it of his own free will."

Judge David Cowan, who is presiding over the case, cast doubt on whether Herzer's legal team could rebut Redstone's testimony.

"Your burden is now a hard one," the judge told O'Donnell, according to local media reports.