By Keach Hagey
Media mogul Sumner Redstone and his family have agreed to settle their long-running legal dispute with his former live-in companion, Manuela Herzer, less than a week before one of the cases was scheduled for trial in California, according to people familiar with the matter.
As part of the settlement, Ms. Herzer has agreed to pay back $3.25 million of the tens of millions of gifts that Mr. Redstone gave her, the people said. The wide-ranging agreement ends all litigation between the two sides, who have been battling in the courts since the fall of 2015, when Mr. Redstone kicked Ms. Herzer out of his Beverly Hills mansion, replaced her as his health-care agent and wrote her out of his estate planning.
Ms. Herzer argued that Mr. Redstone lacked the mental capacity to make these decisions, a charge that ended up shaking the media empire that he controlled to its very foundations. Shortly after she got a court-appointed doctor to examine Mr. Redstone in early 2016, he stepped down as the executive chairman of the two companies he controls, CBS Corp. and Viacom Inc.
The burying of this hatchet will likely quiet lingering questions about the legitimacy of the rise to power of Mr. Redstone's daughter, Shari, who Ms. Herzer has alleged has been manipulating her father since 2015 in order to take over his media empire against his will. Ms. Redstone, through her attorneys, has denied the allegations.
In the ensuing years, Mr. Redstone and his family tried to claw back the millions of dollars in gifts that he had given Ms. Herzer during the years she and another companion, Sydney Holland, had lived with him in his mansion, alleging the two women had abused him and manipulated him into giving Ms. Holland and Ms. Herzer $75 million each. Ms. Holland settled separate litigation with the Redstones last year. Ms. Herzer, meanwhile, continued to fight on multiple fronts, alleging that it wasn't Mr. Redstone, but rather his daughter, who was truly driving the legal fight against her.
Ms. Redstone has denied the allegations through her lawyers.
At one point, Ms. Herzer went so far as to file a federal RICO case -- the kind designed for snaring mobsters -- arguing that Ms. Redstone had engaged in a conspiracy with her father's nurses to oust her from the mansion and remove her from Mr. Redstone's will. The bulk of that case was thrown out last year.
For years, Mr. Redstone, 95 years old, has had such difficulty speaking that he has had to communicate with an iPad loaded with snippets of his voice from past interviews, connected to buttons for "yes," "no" and "f -- you."
His legal team has resisted efforts by Ms. Herzer's lawyers to have him examined by a doctor, refusing to have him deposed in the litigation that he himself brought against Ms. Herzer. In December, at the request of Mr. Redstone's grandson, Tyler Korff -- who Ms. Herzer has accused in legal documents of being part of the conspiracy to deprive her of her inheritance -- a California judge ordered that Mr. Redstone be placed under court-appointed guardianship due to his difficulty speaking.
"This settlement is a tremendous outcome for our client, Tyler Korff, as well as his family," said Vivian L. Thoreen, attorney at Holland & Knight, which represented Mr. Korff. "We are pleased it finally puts an end to years of meritless litigation."
Ms. Herzer's attorney did not respond to requests for comment.
Write to Keach Hagey at email@example.com