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The studio chief is finalizing his exit with executives at parent Viacom, which has put pressure on Grey after a string of low-performing years. Specifically at issue was Viacom’s desire to install a greenlight committee to make decisions on which movies to make. Such a move would have violated the terms of Grey’s employment contract, which gives him sole greenlight authority.
Viacom CEO Bob Bakish will travel to Los Angeles and address Paramount employees early next week. As Viacom searches for a new Paramount leader, Grey’s top executives will report to Bakish, according to sources.
Paramount and Viacom declined to comment.
Whomever replaces Grey, that executive will receive diminished authority and his or her preferences will be subject to a greenlight committee that may include Bakish or other Viacom executives. Such committees have become the norm at Hollywood studios.
Paramount was last among the six major studios in market share in 2016 with only one movie, Star Trek Beyond, cracking $100 million in domestic box office. (The movie was also its top performer overall with a worldwide haul of $343 million.) Others, such as Ben-Hur, Zoolander 2 and Silence, were flat-out bombs. Under pressure from new Viacom CEO Bob Bakish, Paramount is trying to replenish its dearth of franchises by developing several Transformers spinoffs and movies based on Hasbro toys.
Grey, 59, has managed to stay in the top job at Paramount much longer than most studio chiefs, though rumors of his departure have swirled for months amid the ongoing corporate drama at Viacom. The exec inked a new deal in 2016 to stay at the top post through to 2020, but more box-office disappointments meant more pressure.
Viacom’s Bakish this month unveiled a plan to reorganize the company’s businesses in the wake of the ouster of previous chairman Philippe Dauman by focusing on its core brands such as Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and Paramount.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter at the time, Bakish addressed Grey’s status: “Ultimately he is going to have to perform. We hold all our business units accountable for performance, and in this transition, that’s what we are looking for. I’m optimistic about the direction of Paramount, but there is a lot of work to do.”
Kim Masters contributed to this report.
Feb. 17, 4:25 p.m. Updated with additional information about Grey’s exit.
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Sterling K. Brown