Paramount Global CEO Set to Exit Amid Skydance Merger Buzz

Paramount Global CEO Set to Exit Amid Skydance Merger Buzz

Paramount Global is facing a major shakeup as CEO Bob Bakish is anticipated to step down amidst discussions to merge with Skydance Media. The clash between Bakish and controlling shareholder Shari Redstone has escalated, with Redstone questioning Bakish’s pursuit of strategic opportunities for the company, such as a potential sale of the Showtime channel. While Bakish privately opposed the Skydance deal due to concerns about diluting common shareholders, a group of major shareholders, including Mario Gabelli’s Gamco Investors, have criticized the merger for diminishing value.

As tensions mount, reports suggest that Bakish will be temporarily replaced by an ‘Office of the CEO’ composed of division heads. In the midst of this turmoil, Redstone and independent film producer David Ellison are attempting to appease investors by offering concessions to enhance the deal’s appeal. Ellison’s proposal involves purchasing a block of Paramount shares at a premium, while Redstone has agreed to allow nonvoting shareholders a say in the approval of any transaction.

Despite the pushback from shareholders, Redstone is moving forward with a potential deal to merge with Skydance, a decision that has sparked discontent among Paramount stakeholders. If the merger proceeds, Ellison plans to install himself as Paramount Global CEO, a move that could significantly alter the company’s leadership landscape.

The looming departure of Bakish comes at a critical juncture for Paramount, known for housing major brands like CBS, MTV, BET, and Paramount Pictures. As the exclusive negotiating period with Skydance nears its end, stakeholders, including Gabelli, have voiced preferences for Bakish to continue his strategy rather than pursuing a sale. However, private equity firm Apollo Global Management has offered $26 billion and is considering a partnership with Sony as an alternative to the Skydance deal.

Amidst these developments, Bakish’s efforts to explore alternative avenues, such as a streaming partnership with NBCUniversal, have faced criticism from Redstone and the Paramount board. Redstone, dissatisfied with Bakish’s performance, has expressed interest in selling Showtime and blamed Bakish for missed opportunities.

Supporters of Bakish highlight his achievements in elevating Paramount through streaming services like Paramount+ and the acquisition of Pluto TV. Despite the ongoing turmoil, Ellison’s final offer to buy Paramount shares could mark a significant shift in the company’s ownership structure. If the deal progresses, Ellison, along with other investors, aims to raise substantial equity to facilitate the merger with Skydance and potentially reshape Paramount’s leadership team, leaving Bakish’s future at the company uncertain.

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