Viacom heir says Denver auctioneer stole from him


A 1940 painting by the German artist J.H. Thomas that was sold at a June 2023 auction. (

Brent Redstone, scion of a television and film fortune, and his wife are accusing a Denver auction house of selling more than 300 items from their mansion at the base of Mount Blue Sky (Mount Evans)— including a grand piano and several paintings — without giving them the proceeds.

Redstone is the eldest child of Sumner Redstone, a billionaire media magnate who controlled CBS, Viacom and a movie theater chain before his death in 2020. Brent Redstone and his wife, Anne Vanderwerken, are in their 70s and live on a 625-acre ranch near Evergreen.

Last spring, as they looked to clear space in their 10,000-square-foot home there, they talked with longtime Denver auction owner Tom Bruhns, who agreed to sell hundreds of their possessions in exchange for a 20-percent commission, according to a May 29 lawsuit.

“Mainly antique furniture, decorations, rugs, artwork, a lot of maps — that kind of thing,” Frank Suyat, an attorney for Redstone and Vanderwerken, said by phone last week.

The lawsuit Suyat wrote claims that Bruhns Auction Gallery never made a list of the belongings that it removed from the Redstone home. There were 308 items sold June 24, according to an online listing for what Bruhns called the “Mt. Evans Ranch Auction.” The mountain was renamed in September.

The sale’s premier item, a grand concert piano, went for $25,000. The auction included 110 paintings and framed photos, 21 clocks, 15 lamps, 10 chairs, eight tables, eight rugs and a single taxidermied American brown bear, which went for $250. Altogether, the 300-plus items in the Mt. Evans Ranch Auction were sold for a total of $65,629.

“My clients have looked at every item in this lot and can say, ‘That was ours and we know they are ours.’ And having been to that house, I recognize these items,” said Suyat.


A 1977 Steinway and Sons D Concert Grand Piano was the top bid-getter at the June 2023 auction. (

Redstone and Vanderwerken say they haven’t been paid their 80-percent share of the auction proceeds and also that some items were taken from their home but not sold or returned to them. Bruhns has ignored calls and text messages from Vanderwerken, the lawsuit says.

“That indicates to me that he didn’t intend to pay them,” the couple’s lawyer said.

Redstone and Vanderwerken are both retired lawyers. Redstone was a prosecutor in Boston for 14 years after graduating from Harvard and Syracuse. They accuse Bruhns and his auction company of theft, fraud, breach of contract, unjust enrichment and more.

Wade Eldridge, an attorney for Bruhns and Bruhns Auction Gallery, declined to comment.

Bruhns has a recent history of being sued for theft. In April, a jury in Denver determined that he stole money from two buyers of a painting and ordered Bruhns to pay the victims $10,200. The two buyers had paid $50,000 for what was later determined to be a forgery.

And the Redstones have their own history of civil court battles. Brent Redstone sued his father’s company in 2006, claiming he had been pushed out of it. That case was settled but not before the father and son had grown estranged, a rupture that reportedly never healed.

Meanwhile, Redstone and Vanderwerken recently traded in Colorado’s foothills for North Carolina’s. They bought a $9.6 million mansion near Asheville, setting a local record.


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