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Five years after being tapped to lead the newly relaunched Paramount Television banner, Amy Powell is out.
The news was announced Thursday via an internal memo from Paramount CEO Jim Gianopulos in which he outlined “multiple individuals” who raised “concerns around comments” made by the executive in a “professional setting, which they believed were inconsistent” with Viacom’s values. According to sources, the comments included racially charged language. Sources say the inciting incident occurred during a studio notes call for Paramount Network’s First Wives Club reboot, which is being penned by Girls Trip co-writer Tracy Oliver and will feature a predominantly black cast.
Powell, who is said to have been a favorite of Viacom CEO Bob Bakish, allegedly made generalizations about black women that struck some on the call as offensive. A complaint was filed to human resources, who with the legal department, investigated the claims and those involved on the notes call. Sources say Paramount considered discipline but decided to fire Powell after she denied the allegations.
“Having spent the past several days conducting a thorough investigation into this matter and speaking to those who were present, our Human Resources and Legal teams came to the same conclusion, and we have made the decision to terminate Amy’s employment, effective immediately,” Gianopulos wrote. (Read the full memo, below.)
Given the sudden nature of her firing, a search for Powell’s replacement will begin shortly. In the interim, Paramount COO Andrew Gumpert will oversee operational support, while Mireille Soria, Brian Robbins and Wyck Godfrey — presidents of Paramount Animation, Paramount Players and Paramount Motion Picture Group, respectively — will help lead the studio’s team.
Hours after Gianopulos’ memo to staff, Powell denied the allegations in a statement sent by her personal PR: “There is no truth to the allegation that I made insensitive comments in a professional setting — or in any setting,” she said. “The facts will come out and I will be vindicated.” Sources say Powell is considering taking legal action against the studio.
Powell was tapped to oversee Paramount Television in 2013, after spending two years leading the studio’s digital arm. She has been the only president of the TV studio since. She has delivered hits including Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why and TNT’s The Alienist, among others. Since being promoted to run Paramount TV, Powell had been charged with monetizing the studio’s roster of IP and book titles. She successfully drew George Clooney back to the small screen for Hulu’s Catch-22 miniseries. He was poised to star but opted to take on a supporting turn to focus more on directing and producing the series. More recently, she garnered Emmy nominations for the limited series The Alienist (which is expected to score a second season). Powell delivered the studio’s first Emmy nomination for Fox’s Grease Live.
Amid her success at Paramount TV, Powell was among the executives who were in the mix for a job during the Roy Price administration at Amazon Studios. The executive got pretty far along in the process, but ultimately told The Hollywood Reporter that she decided to stay at the Viacom-owned company.
Paramount TV’s roster currently includes Freeform’s Girls Code; Hulu’s Catch-22; Netflix’s F Is for Family, The Haunting of Hill House, 13 Reasons Why and Maniac (starring Emma Stone and Jonah Hill); and Amazon’s upcoming Jack Ryan, among others.
Powell’s firing comes nearly a month after Netflix PR chief Jonathan Friedland was dismissed after repeated uses of the n-word at company functions.
Here is Gianopulos’ memo in full:
Last week, multiple individuals came to us to raise concerns around comments made by Amy Powell in a professional setting, which they believed were inconsistent with our company’s values. Having spent the past several days conducting a thorough investigation into this matter and speaking to those who were present, our Human Resources and Legal teams came to the same conclusion, and we have made the decision to terminate Amy’s employment, effective immediately.
Amy has made lasting contributions to Paramount in her 14 years with the company, including building a world-class team at Paramount TV. While it is incredibly difficult to part ways with a valued member of our community, it is imperative that we uphold our values and ensure that all employees feel safe and included in the workplace.
We will begin immediately looking for Amy’s replacement. In the interim, Andrew Gumpert, Paramount’s Chief Operating Officer, will provide operational support and Mireille Soria, Brian Robbins and Wyck Godfrey — Presidents of Paramount Animation, Paramount Players and Paramount Motion Picture Group, respectively — will provide creative input, where needed, to the incredibly talented Paramount TV team, which is very well-placed to continue the incredible growth of this division.
Importantly, I want to take this opportunity to remind everyone of the type of company and culture we’re committed to building at Paramount. It’s one of inclusion, honesty and accountability – where diversity is critical to ensuring that all ideas, backgrounds and perspectives are embraced and respected.
We will continue this conversation in smaller groups and on a companywide scale in the coming months and, in the meantime, I want us to take stock of where we are and explore what more we can do to foster a safe, supportive and inclusive workplace. Through direct engagement and an open dialogue, my hope is that we can undertake this progress together, in an environment where each and every one of our employees feels heard and valued.
Thank you for your continued hard work and ongoing contributions to this effort.
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