Viacom Said to Discuss Paramount Chief Brad Grey's FutureBy and
Fate of long-serving studio CEO could be settled next week
Film unit suffered $445 million loss in latest fiscal year
Viacom Inc. is in discussions with Paramount Pictures head Brad Grey about a change in leadership at the studio after a string of box-office duds, according to a person familiar with the talks.
A final decision hasn’t been reached, according to the person, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private. Changes could be announced next week.
Grey, 59, has been chairman and chief executive officer of Paramount since 2005, the longest tenure of any current studio head. The film business initially thrived under his direction and captured the top spot among the big six studios in 2011 in domestic ticket sales, thanks to hits such as “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” and “Kung Fu Panda 2.”
Paramount’s performance dropped precipitously more recently. The studio lost $445 million on sales of $2.66 billion in 2016.
Grey’s likely departure has been much discussed in Hollywood given Paramount’s performance and the changes sweeping Viacom, the New York-based entertainment giant controlled by billionaire Sumner Redstone and his daughter Shari.
Last year, the pair ousted Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman following disappointing results at the company, the parent of MTV, Nickelodeon and other TV channels, along with Paramount. New CEO Bob Bakish has been reorganizing management across all of the brands.
Grey came to the studio after a successful run in television, where he co-founded Brillstein-Grey Entertainment, producer of “The Sopranos,” “Real Time with Bill Maher” and “The Larry Sanders Show,” according to a bio at the studio’s website.
As rumors swirled last August about a possible Grey departure, Shari Redstone and the company’s board issued a statement saying they supported the executive. A month later, Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Moore got the ax.
“Monster Trucks,” a film that led to a $115 million write-off last year, was released in January to poor reviews and worldwide ticket sales of just $60.2 million.
Paramount has looked to get back into television production after ceding that business to CBS Corp. in a 2006 corporate divorce that split Viacom and CBS into separate companies.
This month, Bakish unveiled a corporate turnaround plan that involves reducing the number of one-off films Paramount releases and focusing instead on pictures tied to TV shows on Nickelodeon and other Viacom-owned channels. The young, male-oriented cable channel Spike is being renamed the Paramount Network.
Viacom fell 0.4 percent to $43.99 at the close in New York. It’s up 23 percent in the past year.
— With assistance by Christopher Palmeri