Power Fallout Inside Paramount: How a Potential Sale May Have Ousted CEO Bob Bakish

Shari Redstone does not want to be left out of a potential Paramount sale.

Brian Robbins, Bob Bakish, Shari Redstone and Tracy James.
Bob Bakish (center left) and Shari Redstone (center right) reportedly disagree over who should be the new owner of Paramount. Photo by Lexie Moreland/Variety via Getty Images

On Monday (April 29), Paramount Global officially sent its CEO Bob Bakish packing after reporting first-quarter earnings, confirming earlier speculation about the CEO’s departure. The ouster marked an end to Bakish’s 30-year career with the entertainment powerhouse. Bakish’s departure coincided with advanced merger talks between Paramount’s parent company, National Amusements, led by Shari Redstone, and Skydance Media, led by David Ellison

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Bakish will be replaced by an “Office of the CEO,” Paramount said, whose members include CBS CEO George Cheeks, Chris McCarthy, CEO of Showtime/MTV Entertainment Studios and Paramount Media, and Brian Robbins, CEO of Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon.

“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,” Redstone said in a statement. “I am extremely excited for what their combined leadership means for Paramount Global and for the opportunities that lie ahead.”

Paramount didn’t take any questions during the company’s brief nine-minute earnings call following the announcement about Bakish. In fact, analysts and investors were blocked out with the Mission Impossible theme song, which was played on loop during what would’ve been the time for a Q&A session, according to an X post by Financial Times journalist Anna Nicolaou. 

Bakish joined Paramount’s former parent company, Viacom, in 1997 and became CEO in 2016. He led Viacom’s merger with CBS in 2019, which created a new company called ViacomCBS in 2019. That company eventually evolved into Paramount Global. The company is struggling with $15 billion in debt and has been ripe for a sale for years, analysts say.

Bakish has made several moves in an attempt to free up cash for Paramount, including a sale of Simon and Schuster last fall and the shuttering of linear services like Showtime Sports. It’s been reported that Paramount is also looking for a buyer of BET Networks. Sale of Paramount Global as a whole has been circling for months, with Bakish meeting with multiple potential suitors, including Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) CEO David Zaslav

The most likely buyer of Paramount is Skydance. It’s been reported that Bakish and Redstone had different views on moving the deal forward, with Bakish in opposition and Redstone in favor. Redstone has opposed competing offers, including a recent $11 billion bid from the private equity firm Apollo Management. Apollo’s offer was only for Paramount, which is currently valued at $8.16 billion, and not Redstone’s National Amusements, which is likely why she rejected it. Redstone is Paramount’s largest stakeholder, and losing the company could plummet her status as a top media mogul. 

Power Fallout Inside Paramount: How a Potential Sale May Have Ousted CEO Bob Bakish