Berman exits as Paramount divides


Gail Berman stepped down Wednesday as the president of Paramount Pictures, the first step in chairman and CEO Brad Grey's restructuring of the studio into four distinct labels (HR 1/11).

Co-president of production Allison Shearmur also will step down, effective immediately, Grey said.

Without a studio president, under the new Paramount structure each of Grey's motion picture group executives now reports directly to him.

The four labels are DreamWorks, headed by co-chairman Stacey Snider, who already reports to Grey; MTV Films/ Nickelodeon Movies, led by president Scott Aversano; Paramount Pictures, run by president of production Brad Weston; and Paramount Vantage, headed by president John Lesher.

DreamWorks will supply eight pictures a year for the studio. MTV/Nick and Paramount will deliver four each, while Lesher already has 10 modestly budgeted pictures scheduled for release in 2007.

In making the changes, Grey is hoping to clarify and reorganize a studio that many industry insiders found chaotic and internally fractious, with executives vying for position. Grey is simplifying things by awarding Weston sole responsibility for running production, a job he had shared with Shearmur.

"The new structure provides a real clarity to our system," Grey said in a telephone interview. "The label strategy not only allows us to target our development more effectively but to use the assets we've been building during the turnaround in the best way for the slate, the staff and the community we deal with every day."

Berman was the only female executive ever to hold the top posts at both a major film studio and television network. She was president of entertainment at the Fox Broadcasting Co. for five years, then joined Paramount in May 2005 at Grey's behest. With expertise primarily as a TV series producer and network programmer, Berman experienced a rocky transition as she moved into the motion picture arena.