Update From Earlier Exclusive: Brad Grey is negotiating for a first-look deal at Paramount and to stay on certain projects as a producer. He is not looking to take on a new role within Viacom. Our original story is below.
Grey’s departure from his post as Chairman and CEO of the studio is imminent — as in, no longer a matter of “if,” but a matter of “when,” multiple sources at several Paramount-based production companies told the Tracking Board on Friday.
Insiders acknowledge that while Grey is technically still in his position, he is currently — as in, this very minute — engaged in serious conversations with Viacom brass on both coasts to step down from his dual role atop the studio, which he has presided over for the last 12 years.
Grey’s voicemail says that his office is closed until Tuesday in observance of President’s Day. Paramount had a half-day today and is closed Monday.
Grey’s exit has been rumored for weeks in the wake of Paramount’s recent struggles, and historically, studio heads often step down on the Friday before a long holiday weekend. Things may not be officially resolved until Monday or Tuesday, as it’s unclear whether Grey would take on a new role within Viacom, or whether he’d transition to a producing deal with the studio, a la Adam Goodman.
Grey’s contract runs through 2020 and gives him sole greenlight authority at the studio, which is one of the issues that concerns Viacom, as Paramount’s parent company would prefer to install a greenlight committee.
New Viacom CEO Bob Bakish has said that Paramount brass has to be held accountable for its decisions, and the studio is coming off its worst year under Grey, losing $445 million in the last fiscal year. It also finished last among the six major studios in market share last year. Bakish will likely address Grey’s ouster with Paramount employees next week.
While Paramount has numerous Oscar nominations this year thanks to Fences and Arrival, the studio’s box office fortunes have been decidedly mixed, with Monster Trucks, Silence, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot and Rings among its recent flops. The studio also took a hefty write-down on Star Trek Beyond, and saw both Ben-Hur and Zoolander 2 underperform.
Amy Powell, who oversees television and digital entertainment for Paramount, is the frontrunner to inherit Grey’s responsibilities for the time being, while Grey’s exit is not expected to have an immediate impact on Marc Evans’ role as President of Paramount’s Motion Picture Group.
Stay tuned to the Tracking Board for more on this situation as it develops.
Jeff Sneider | Editor in Chief