Paramount CEO Bob Bakish Officially Exiting Company

George Cheeks, Chris McCarthy and Brian Robbins were appointed as Office of the CEO

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Today, Paramount announced Bob Bakish was stepping down from his role as CEO and from its board of directors.

The news came amid ongoing exclusive acquisition talks with Skydance Media and ahead of the company’s first-quarter earnings call, which Bakish wasn’t expected to join.

In the CEO’s absence, Paramount Global has established an “Office of the CEO,” led by George Cheeks, president and CEO of CBS; Chris McCarthy, president and CEO of Showtime/MTV Entertainment Studios and Paramount Media Networks; and Brian Robbins, president and CEO of Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon. The three executives will work closely with CFO Naveen Chopra and the board of directors.

The Office of the CEO will look to develop a long-term plan to accelerate the company’s growth, develop content, streamline operations, strengthen the balance sheet and optimize streaming strategies, according to the company.

“Paramount Global includes exceptional assets and we believe strongly in the future value creation potential of the company. I have tremendous confidence in George, Chris and Brian,” Shari Redstone, chair of the board, said in a statement. “They have both the ability to develop and execute on a new strategic plan and to work together as true partners. I am extremely excited for what their combined leadership means for Paramount Global and for the opportunities that lie ahead.”

Bakish has been at Paramount (previously Viacom) since 1997, becoming CEO of Viacom in 2016 and the CEO of the combined company in 2019. However, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that the CEO’s leadership has come into question during Skydance Media and RedBird Capital acquisition talks. For instance, the company has increasingly lost value with Bakish at the helm, falling from $25.3 billion in 2019 to around $8.4 billion today.

“The board and I thank Bob for his many contributions over his long career, including in the formation of the combined company as well as his successful efforts to rebuild the great culture Paramount has long been known for. We wish him all the best,” Redstone added.

Merger talks have swirled around Paramount since late last year when Warner Bros. Discovery was rumored to be interested in the company, despite its rising $15 billion in debt at the time.

Despite Bakish’s exit, CNBC’s Alex Sherman reported Monday that a merger with Skydance Media remains uncertain, due to shareholders potentially having equity diluted in a merger.

“I think it might increase the likelihood that a deal doesn’t get done,” Sherman said on CNBC. “Because I don’t think that common shareholders have loved this deal.”

Moving forward

Under Bakish, it’s been an up-and-down year for Paramount.

In February, the company had the most-viewed Super Bowl ever, bringing in more than 123.7 million viewers across platforms. However, shortly after that, the company announced mass layoffs.

Bakish announced the cuts in a memo in February while merger talks with Skydance began to heat up.

“As always, I am continually grateful for your commitment to our company. And I’m confident we will navigate this transition and emerge stronger than ever,” Bakish said.

Paramount also recently said goodbye to ad sales legend Jo Ann Ross, who had been at the company for more than three decades and announced she was exiting ahead of upfront season.

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