Paramount Global’s CEO Bob Bakish is out. The executive who has been a presence at several iterations of the company since 1997 will exit, effective immediately. A triumvirate of division heads — Brian Robbins, George Cheeks and Chris McCarthy — will step in to lead the company for now in a new office of the CEO.

Robbins is president & CEO of Paramount Pictures & Nickelodeon and chief content officer, Movies and Kids & Family, Paramount+; Cheeks is president-CEO of CBS, and chief content officer, News and Sports, Paramount+; McCarthy is President & CEO, Showtime/MTV Entertainment Studios and Paramount Media Networks.

Related Stories

The company said the “Office of the CEO is working with the Board to develop a comprehensive, long-range plan to accelerate growth and develop popular content, materially streamline operations, strengthen the balance sheet, and continue to optimize the streaming strategy. The Board has great confidence in the leaders comprising the Office of the CEO, all of whom are senior creative executives and business leaders with a track record of success running meaningful businesses within Paramount Global.”

Board chair Shari Redstone said 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. 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.”

As per the Board of Directors: “The creation of the Office of the CEO will enable the Company to accelerate growth and strengthen operations. We look forward to working with George, Chris and Brian as they execute on key initiatives to enhance performance and value creation at Paramount Global.”

It’s a drama-filled, and fluid, situation as Shari Redstone is in late-stage negotiations to sell her controlling stake in Paramount to David Ellison’s Skydance Media. Paramount is also set to report earnings. The release on change in management had no mention of that.

Redstone and Bakish have been allies for years and in 2016 she backed him as chief executive of a standalone Viacom, then as head of a combined ViacomCBS when the sister companies merged for the second time in 2019. He previously had a strong decade-long run overseeing Viacom’s international business. But tensions between the two have been rising.

At a complicated time in the media industry and an uncertain moment for the company, his departure, which had been confirmed by sources over the weekend, had Paramount executives and staff on edge at events in Washington, D.C. and LA Saturday.  

Deadline hears that Redstone felt Bakish was the right CEO at the right time for a combined company, renamed Paramount Global in 2022. Among other moves, he oversaw the acquisition of Pluto TV, and launched Paramount+. But offers to buy Showtime were rebuffed and the company appeared to bungled a sale of BET as financial pressure kept mounting amid streaming losses and a steady decline in linear television. That said, he worked for Redstone. Bakish opposed the Skydance deal, in opposition to Redstone.

Merger speculation has swirled around Paramount for several years, accelerating last fall — around the same time the board added golden parachute provisions to compensation arrangement for top executives.

Wall Street’s view of Bakish is mixed but he is in step with most Paramount Global investors in opposing a deal with Skydance. Shareholders could not despise it more, at least its initial terms, which Deadline learned have been revised in an updated offer presented on Sunday.

The outline of the initial deal called for Skydance and backers Larry Ellison and Gerry Cardinale’s RedBird Capital to acquire Shari Redstone’s controlling stake in Paramount plus other assets of family holding company National Amusements for about $2 billion. Paramount would then acquire Skydance in an all-stock deal valued at the upper end of a $4-$5 billion range. Skydance presented a revised proposal Sunday that gives a bit more to common shareholder and a big less to Redstone.

A special committee of Paramount’s board of directors is evaluating the deal that would see Jeff Shell, who runs sports media for RedBird, become president under David Ellison as CEO. Skydance plans to keep Paramount public.

Paramount has two classes of stock, something founding families do to maintain control. Redstone owns most of the Class A voting shares in Paramount, but less than 10% of the total equity represented by the more widely held Class B shares. Investors have been furious at the prospect of Redstone cashing out at what appears to be a significant premium, while they can’t. Some have threatened legal action saying even a controlled company has a fiduciary duty to seek the best deal for all shareholders.

Paramount shares are trading at about $12, half of what they were a year ago, eroding shareholder returns but also Redstone’s personal wealth. The Ellison team believes they can boost the shares with a big capital injection and a restructuring, Deadline hears.

The company is in talks with the nation’s second biggest cable provider Charter Communications over a key carriage deal that technically expires tomorrow.

Sony and Apollo are considering a joint bid but have not made a formal offer yet. They would take the company private, buying out all shareholders. Deadline has heard that the partners are debating whether to wait to put in an official bid if the Skydance deal falls through, or go out with one earlier.