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HomeFT SelectViacom picks former Fox film chief to run Paramount

Viacom picks former Fox film chief to run Paramount

Viacom, the owner of Nickelodeon and MTV, has turned to former Fox film chief Jim Gianopulos to revive its ailing Paramount Pictures division, hoping that he can restore the studio behind The Godfather, Saturday Night Fever and Top Gun to its former glory.

Mr Gianopulos released Avatar, the biggest box office hit ever produced by Fox, as well as Deadpool, the X-Men series and The Grand Budapest Hotel, but recently stepped down from his post. He was the favourite to succeed Brad Grey as Paramount chairman when he departed the company last month.

Mr Gianopulos will take over a movie studio in dire need of a hit. Paramount posted an $180m operating loss in the final three months of 2016 following a string of box office flops, including 2016′s Ben Hur and Zoolander 2, and has long been considered the poor man of Hollywood, eclipsed by larger rivals such as Walt Disney, Warner Brothers and Universal.

Woes at its parent company are partly to blame, where years of under-investment and a tumbling share price tied the hands of Paramount executives. However, Viacom stock has rallied since the start of 2017 with investors warming to a turnround plan outlined by Bob Bakish, its new chief executive.

Viacom spent 2016 embroiled in a messy power struggle between Shari Redstone, the daughter of Sumner Redstone — the controlling shareholder of Viacom and its sister company, CBS — and Philippe Dauman, Viacom’s former chief executive.

Ms Redstone prevailed, culminating in Mr Dauman’s ousting, a revamp of the board and Mr Bakish’s promotion to chief executive.

Mr Bakish intends to shift Viacom’s focus to a slimmed-down slate of six “flagship brands” in an effort to reverse the shrinking audiences and advertising sales that have sapped the company’s profits and knocked the shares.

With Ms Redstone and her father recently deciding not to pursue a merger with CBS, Viacom’s sister company, the pressure is on Mr Bakish and his lieutenants to improve performance.

Mr Gianopulos said there was a “strong opportunity” to create “valuable franchise opportunities” for Paramount while “mining Viacom’s deep brand portfolio to bring exciting new narratives to life”.

Via FT