After Bob Bakish Exit From Paramount, Trio Of Senior Exec Successors Look To

George Cheeks, Brian Robbins and Chris McCarthy, the Paramount Global executives chosen to occupy the Office of the CEO as a replacement for the departing Bob Bakish, sought to reassure Wall Street on Monday that they have a plan.

The remarks, which took up just two minutes at the start of Paramount’s first-quarter earnings call, featured short comments from each exec, with the trio being played off by the Mission: Impossible theme. Cheeks began by thanking Bakish for his “many years of leadership and steadfast support for all Paramount Global businesses, brands and people.”

Paramount Global “has the greatest content in the world,” Cheeks continued. “That is the most important point. We’ve got incredible assets at this company.”

Equally as important, McCarthy said, is the fact that the three execs stepping in for Bakish are well-acquainted with each other. “We’re true partners,” he said, with “deep respect for each other.”

The company is finalizing a long-term strategic plan, McCarthy added, built on three pillars: optimizing hit content, maximizing the balance sheet and refining the company’s streaming strategy.

Robbins said the three execs have been “collaborating with each other for years,” and has an estimable record of creating hit TV and film titles, “which is the core” of Paramount Global. Each exec, he went on, has significant experience, relationships and “deep” industry knowledge. “We will bring all of that to bear as we chart a course forward for our company,” he said. “We look forward to coming back to you in short order to share our plan and discuss it all in detail at that time.”

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; and Robbins is president & CEO of Paramount Pictures & Nickelodeon and chief content officer, Movies and Kids & Family, Paramount+.

The remarks, which were followed by more finance-focused comments by CFO Naveen Chopra, were not accompanied by the traditional question-and-answer period with analysts. The call was held shortly after the company reported a mixed-to-positive set of financial results for the first quarter and also confirmed the exit of Bakish as CEO.

Bakish fell out of favor with Paramount’s controlling shareholder after a long period in the 2010s when she championed him as first Viacom CEO and then chief exec of ViacomCBS, now Paramount. Scrutiny of Bakish’s strategic acumen from within as well as in the investment community has been heightened as the company conducts exclusive merger talks with Skydance. David Ellison’s company sweetened its offer for Paramount after an outcry from investors who could have been diluted under previous proposals.

While Cheeks, McCarthy and Robbins are accurate in saying that they are seasoned industry veterans who have worked under the same corporate roof for many years and prior to that have crossed paths plenty, none of them has run a public company. Cheeks joined ViacomCBS in 2020 as CEO of CBS after a seven-year run at NBCUniversal, and has added to his portfolio ever since. McCarthy rose through the ranks after joining MTV in a marketing role in 2006 and then going on to lead networks and network groups. Robbins, after a career in film and TV spanning acting, directing and producing, co-founded Awesomeness TV, which was acquired by Viacom in 2018. He had joined Viacom in 2017 and held several exec roles before being upped to his current post.

The elevation of the three execs to the Office of the CEO is understood to be an acknowledgement that Bakish had been opposed to the Skydance deal, which is favored by Redstone over other scenarios like a potential Apollo-Sony joint bid. If the exclusive talks between Paramount and Skydance result in a deal, the latter’s David Ellison will be installed as CEO.

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