John Lesher, Brad Weston out at Paramount

Brad Grey fires pair; Adam Goodman taking over for Lesher

An executive earthquake rocked Paramount Pictures’ Melrose lot Friday as chairman and CEO Brad Grey fired Paramount Film Group president John Lesher and production president Brad Weston.

Production president Adam Goodman, who served as DreamWorks president of production until Steven Spielberg’s company split from Paramount in October, will take over for Lesher, overseeing Par’s various film labels.

Both Lesher and Weston have been offered production deals with the studio.
Goodman is a relative newcomer to the Par exec team — in the wake of the DreamWorks departure, Grey brought Goodman over to oversee all the DreamWorks-developed material and staff.

“Adam has proven himself to be a terrific executive with a track record of having shepherded some incredibly successful films,” Grey said. “We have worked closely with Adam over the last few years and look forward to expanding his duties.”

As the new president of the Paramount Film Group, Goodman will report to Grey, while Par vice chairman Rob Moore will continue to oversee Goodman on business affairs matters.
Goodman becomes the third exec to oversee all of Par’s film production since Grey was installed as Par chairman in January 2005.

The revolving door began when Grey first turned to former Fox television executive Gail Berman, who lasted less than two years in the post, departing in early 2007. After a year in which the heads of Par’s production labels reported directly to Grey, the studio chairman then turned to Lesher, who had been heading the studio’s specialty division Paramount Vantage. But Lesher’s tenure, which began in January 2008, has now proven even more short-lived.

While a studio press release headlined the latest shake-up as an effort to “streamline its production executive structure,” Lesher and Weston appeared to be taking the fall for failing to move more projects through the pipeline.

For the past few years, the studio’s boxoffice fortunes have been dependent on contributions from suppliers like Marvel, DreamWorks and DreamWorks Animation.

The studio has been moving to ramp up its own production efforts with movies like multiple Oscar-nominee “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “Star Trek,” a hit which has racked up $350 million worldwide, even though questions remain about its ultimate profitability given high production and marketing costs. Par unleashes the sequel “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” a coproduction with DreamWorks, next week.

A longtime motion picture lit agent at UTA and Endeavor, where he repped directors such as Martin Scorsese, Lesher joined Par in November 2005, revamping Paramount Classics as Paramount Vantage, where he acquired or jump-started such Oscar-nominated films as “An Inconvenient Truth,” “Babel,” “There Will Be Blood” and “No Country for Old Men.”

Although Lesher proved his ability to attract high-end directors, many questioned whether he could adapt to the studio’s more mainstream demands. Additionally, Vantage, for all its critical acclaim, didn’t prove a financial success — its films were too pricey for the audiences they attracted — and the studio downgraded it from a stand-alone unit to a label last year.

As he eased Lesher out of his current job, Grey said, “John has made great contributions to Paramount and has nurtured a series of powerful films which have had a true cultural impact.”

Weston originally joined Par during Berman’s reign as co-president of production along with Alli Shearmur. He became the sole head of production in January 2007.

He rode out a number of sudden shifts at the studio. Having reported directly to Grey, Weston acquired a new boss when Lesher took over as head of the film group in early 2008. Then, when Goodman arrived on the scene last year, Weston was told both he and Goodman would hold president of production titles, with each overseeing separate slates.
With the release of J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek,” Weston was, ironically, enjoying the biggest success of his career.

“Brad’s strong relationships with filmmakers, his creative instincts and his hard work have been strong assets for our studio,” Grey said.

Goodman’s quick rise to the number three slot beneath Grey and Moore is all the more remarkable given how events played out over the past year. He was head of production at DreamWorks when Paramount purchased the company in 2006, and went on to shepherd “Transformers,” “Norbit,” “Blades of Glory,” “Disturbia,” “Tropic Thunder” and “Eagle Eye.”

But when DreamWorks separated from Par, Goodman’s former lieutenants, Holly Bario and Marc Sourian, were handed the production president reins slots at the newly independent DreamWorks. At the time, Goodman’s future was uncertain until Grey brought him into the Paramount fold alongside Weston.