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Paramount CEO Bob Bakish to step down amid sale discussions

Paramount Global said Monday that CEO Bob Bakish is stepping down from his role, a major management shift at the media and entertainment company as it considers a potential merger or sale. 

Paramount said in a statement on Monday that it is creating an Office of the CEO to replace Bakish. The role will be filled by three Paramount Global executives: CBS CEO George Cheeks; Showtime/MTV Entertainment Studios and Paramount Media Networks CEO Chris McCarthy; and Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon CEO Brian Robbins. 

"I have tremendous confidence in George, Chris and Brian," Shari Redstone, chair of the board, said in the statement. "They have both the ability to develop and execute on a new strategic plan and to work together as true partners."

Paramount Global is the parent company of CBS News.

Bakish's departure comes at a pivotal moment for Paramount, with the company exploring a merger and other deals with several potential partners. In recent weeks, the company has held exclusive discussions with Skydance Media, a media firm founded by David Ellison, the son of Oracle founder Larry Ellison, according to published reports.

The discussions are complicated by Paramount's ownership structure, as Shari Redstone — the daughter of the late company founder Sumner Redstone — effectively controls 77% of its voting shares. Under a proposed deal with Ellison, Redstone would sell her voting stake to Skydance for $2 billion, while other Paramount shareholders would receive stock in a newly merged company, the Journal reported.

The company didn't address its merger discussions in the statement, although the board of directors said it is looking "forward to working with George, Chris and Brian as they execute on key initiatives to enhance performance and value creation at Paramount Global."

Bakish's exit marks the end of a long career at Paramount that began in 1997 at Viacom, the movie studio's predecessor company. He was eventually tapped to lead Viacom, and then oversaw the merger of Viacom and CBS in 2019. In 2022, ViacomCBS changed its name to Paramount Global.

In an email sent to Paramount Global employees, Bakish said, "When I was asked to serve as interim CEO in 2016, I thought it would be a month-long gig. Seven years later, I can truly say the opportunity to lead this incredible company has been an unexpected but most welcome gift, and the greatest honor of my professional life."

Separately, Paramount reported a first-quarter loss of $554 million, significantly narrower than its $1.12 billion loss in the year-ago period. Revenue rose 6% to $7.69 billion, buoyed by strong advertising demand for CBS' Super Bowl broadcast in February as well as the addition of 3.7 million new subscribers to the Paramount+ streaming service. 

The company said Paramount+ ended the quarter with 71 million subscribers, while the service's loss narrowed to $286 million, compared with $511 million in the year-earlier period.

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