Paramount's Next President: The Most Dangerous Job in Hollywood?

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Adam Goodman

Ever since Brad Grey took the studio's reins in 2005, he has ousted a string of lieutenants from the posts of Motion Picture Group president and president of production.

It might be the most dangerous job in Hollywood.

Though Paramount's president post is currently open in the wake of Adam Goodman's exit last week, suitors beware. It has been a position fraught with a high degree of turnover ever since Brad Grey took the studio's reins in 2005. In less than a decade, he has ousted a string of lieutenants from the posts of film group president and president of production including Donald De Line, Gail Berman, Alli Shearmur, Brad Weston, John Lesher and now Goodman. Add to that the list of other top executives relieved of their duties by Grey such as vice chairman and chief operating officer Rob Friedman, MTV Films president David Gale, MTV Films and Nickelodeon Movies president Scott Aversano and Paramount Vantage president Nick Meyer, and it's no surprise that Goodman's open post is prompting none of the same jockeying as the top vacant post at Sony Pictures Entertainment did in recent weeks.

Sources say Paramount may have difficulty filling Goodman's job from the outside. For one thing, the position includes fewer responsibilities than it generally does at other studios in terms of which functions Goodman oversaw. Of course, that could be changed in a restructuring, which Paramount has done in the past (at times, the studio has simultaneously employed a president of production and a studio president, while at other times, it has had only had one person essentially wearing both hats). Viacom, too, is in the middle of a stated restructuring.

Another downside to the job, Paramount has by far the smallest slate of the six major studios, meaning fewer opportunities to put films into production. But perhaps the greatest deterrent for seeking the post is the growing perception of instability at Paramount's parent company, Viacom. Executive chairman Sumner Redstone, 91, is said to be ill. Anyone taking Goodman's job would need to weather whatever tumult comes about as a result of the inevitable changing of the guard. Even if Redstone continues on, Paramount restructuring means layoffs are likely looming, and few outside the studio would be eager to jump into that inevitability.

Perhaps it's telling the manner in which Goodman was let go. Sources say it was unintentional for the news of Goodman's ouster to leak before Grey had someone else in place.

"[Grey] is a guy who always had it figured out, and he didn't," a source said. "The extrapolation from that is that for the first time, it feels like Brad was under pressure."

But others say that Grey seized the opportunity during a week in which the news was focused on Tom Rothman being named head of Sony Pictures Entertainment's Motion Picture Group. Either way, Goodman's management style had put him at odds with many in the talent community, notably UTA's Jim Berkus and CAA's Bryan Lourd.

Over the past week, rumors have been flying about who has already been approached. Producer Mary Parent, who is a seasoned executive, is said to be uninterested. Producer Scott Stuber, who used to share executive duties at Universal with Parent, is said to have priced himself out of the running. Columbia president Michael De Luca, facing a new Rothman regime at Sony, is under contract there. Other names have been floated, such as producers Lorenzo Di Bonaventura and Matt Tolmach, but associates of both believe they would not be interested.

Grey could make a surprise choice or reach into the executive talent at another studio. Or he might need to look within. That leaves president of production Marc Evans as the likeliest choice. Either way, Evans will be overseeing production for the time being as the studio moves forward with such projects as Star Trek 3, War Dogs and The Big Short. If no one else raises their hand, Evans could get the gig. He is helped by the fact that he is not seen as a Goodman protege. In fact, Evans has been an executive at Paramount long before Goodman joined the studio's ranks from DreamWorks. Then again, Evans has been on the lot long enough to see how dangerous a top post at Paramount can be.

Kim Masters contributed to this report.

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