Paramount Chief Executive Bob Bakish Could Be Out Next Week

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Paramount is preparing to announce the departure of its chief executive, Bob Bakish, as soon as next week, according to three people with knowledge of the matter, a sudden development even as the company is exploring a merger.

The impending move is a result of Mr. Bakish’s worsening relationship with Shari Redstone, the company’s controlling shareholder, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing a delicate matter. Ms. Redstone grew frustrated with what she saw as his inability to get important deals across the finish line, including a sale of the Showtime and BET cable channels, the people said.

Two people familiar with the matter said several of Paramount’s senior executives had expressed reservations about the direction of the company to a representative of the board of directors in recent weeks, further eroding Mr. Bakish’s standing with Ms. Redstone.

The company is in talks to merge with Skydance, a media company controlled by David Ellison, the tech scion and Hollywood producer. It is also negotiating a lucrative deal to keep channels like Nickelodeon and MTV on the Charter cable system.

National Amusements, Paramount’s owner, is contemplating various options to replace Mr. Bakish, 60, who has led Paramount and its predecessor company, Viacom, since 2016 and has worked at the company since 1997. In one possibility, Paramount would be run by an “office of the C.E.O.” led by division chiefs like Brian Robbins, the head of the Paramount movie studio; George Cheeks, the top executive of CBS; and Chris McCarthy, president of Paramount’s entertainment and youth brands. The company could also choose to put an acting chief executive in place.

Paramount declined to comment. The Wall Street Journal earlier reported that Paramount’s board was considering replacing Mr. Bakish.

Like many media companies, Paramount has struggled in recent years to get its streaming business off the ground as audiences for its cable channels have deteriorated. Paramount is losing hundreds of millions of dollars annually on its streaming business, Paramount+, though its losses have slowed, and the company’s share price has continued to sink as investors have become increasingly cautious about traditional media.

Because of these challenges, Paramount has long been considered an acquisition target by rivals looking to bulk up their content libraries and maximize their leverage in cable negotiations. Things began to heat up at the end of last year when Ms. Redstone referred Skydance’s interest in Paramount to the company’s board, which formed a special committee to consider the deal.

Paramount now is deep in talks with Skydance to shape what would be a complex deal. Ms. Redstone controls Paramount through National Amusements and has signed off on a potential deal. But Paramount’s special committee must also sign off.

The deal being discussed would give Ms. Redstone a big payout and Paramount shareholders stock in a new company. That structure, along with the fact that the private equity firm Apollo Global Management has been talking about teaming up with Sony in an alternative all-cash bid, has led to objections to a sale by some shareholders.

A 30-day period of exclusive talks between the two sides is set to expire in early May.

Paramount is also planning to report earnings on Monday, putting the company in a tricky spot with analysts who will be seeking an explanation for Mr. Bakish’s sudden departure. Losing its chief executive is likely to invite questions from investors about the way the sales process is being handled. It could also weaken Paramount’s hand in those negotiations.



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