Paramount Ousts CEO Amid Sale Effort

As Paramount Global very publicly pursues a sale, longtime executive Bob Bakish has found himself increasingly on the outs.

Photo of Paramount Pictures studio
Photo via Hannah Wernecke

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The kid doesn’t stay in the picture. Paramount Global held its first-quarter earnings call on Monday, and at least one notable name wasn’t present: CEO Bob Bakish.

As the media conglomerate very publicly pursues a sale, the longtime executive has found himself increasingly on the outs. During its earnings call, the company made his exit official.

Dead Reckoning

Perhaps more than any of its legacy media peers, Paramount has suffered from the industry’s trio of interconnected plagues: Linear television is dying, the theatrical box office is destabilized, and the path to profitability in streaming is murkier than anticipated. The total on-platform demand share for streamer Paramount+ — which essentially includes Paramount’s entire content library, spanning decades — ranked last among the seven major streamers included in data firm Parrot Analytics’ first-quarter industry report.

It’s a reason why Paramount’s market cap has plummeted to under $9 billion from around $30 billion in 2019 when CBS and Viacom completed their merger. It’s no wonder Shari Redstone, non-executive chairwoman who inherited the longtime family-controlled business, is ready to sell. But the company’s dual-class share structure is complex, with the fruits of any cash-out sale to be directed almost entirely to the Redstones — but not regular Class B shareholders.

It’s why the chaotic sale process has sparked a shareholder rebellion, with Bakish at the center of it all:

  • Redstone is at the tail end of a 30-day exclusive negotiating window with potential buyer Skydance Media, the production company backed by KKR, Redbird Capital, and run by David Ellison. An initial offer would have essentially bought out Redstone’s Class A shares for $2 billion, while regular shareholders would get stock in the newly formed company, but no payout; shareholders and Bakish, unsurprisingly, balked at this deal.
  • Meanwhile, a $26 billion all-cash rival joint bid by private equity giant Apollo Global, possibly in partnership with Sony Pictures, has been submitted. This offer would include Class B shareholders in any payout, though Redstone fears the PE giant would eventually sell the storied company piecemeal.

You’re Fired: Skydance submitted its “best and final” offer on Monday, multiple outlets reported, including a $3 billion cash infusion to pay down debt and, mostly, to buy back stock from the Class B proletariat. That theoretically assuages some of the concerns previously voiced by Bakish, though after nearly 30 years with the company he won’t be around to see what happens next. Hey, Bob, fret not: We hear there may soon be a CEO opening across town at Disney.