In a mover that follows a reorganization of Viacom's cable TV network group, Bakish on Wednesday announced that Brad Grey will leave Paramount Pictures after 12 years atop the Hollywood studio.
The anticipated need to replace Grey as chairman and CEO of Paramount had been growing stronger in recent months as the studio posted a loss of $445 million in 2016 and investors embraced Bakish's vision for Viacom following more than two years of poor performance.
A slate of costly sequels that busted at the box office was the final straw for Grey. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, Star Trek Beyond, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back and Zoolander 2 all were disappointments that offset critical acclaim and Oscar nominations for Fences and Arrival.
"Brad has overseen the production and distribution of some of Paramount's most celebrated hits, and more recently championed the successful relaunch of the studio's television division," Bakish said in Wednesday's statement. "We are grateful for his 12 years of extraordinary service and wish him every continued success."
The decision to replace Grey goes beyond Paramount's most recent performance, though. The studio has sat in last place among Hollywood's largest studios in recent years as the company's attention was diverted by a bitter internal battle for corporate control that controlling shareholder Shari Redstone ultimately won over former CEO Philippe Dauman.
As Dauman spent more than $15.5 billion in cash buying back the company's stock in a largely fruitless effort to reverse its falling stock price, Paramount failed to develop new franchises at a time when Disney (DIS) - Get Walt Disney Company Report and Comcast's (CMCSA) - Get Comcast Corporation Class A Report Universal were breaking box-office records.
Expectations are high that Bakish will look to hire a big name in Hollywood to replace Grey. Paramount seeks to rejuvenate a studio that once flew high with films such as Titanic, Forrest Gump and the Indiana Jones series. Upcoming releases may offer hope -- depending on your point of view -- for a turnaround: Baywatch starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is scheduled for May 26, and the most recent edition of the Transformers franchise is set to open on June 23.
Until a permanent replacement is named, Paramount will be run by a committee that will include Bakish as well as the studio's top executives including Marc Evans, president of Paramount Motion Picture Group, and Andrew Gumpert, the studio's chief operating officer.
The changes at Paramount follow a sweeping reorganization of Viacom's cable TV networks, which Bakish announced earlier this month. Viacom said on Feb. 9 that it will concentrate its energy and investments on six of its more than 16 cable TV channels: MTV, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., BET, Comedy Central and Spike.
In early 2018, Viacom plans to change the name of Spike to the Paramount Network to better link its film studio with its cable TV business and expand its programming to reach a wider audience, something that Time Warner (TWX) has done over the past two years with TNT and TBS. Bakish also said that half of Paramount's film slate would originate from Viacom's television properties.
Since being appointed CEO in November, Bakish has said he would focus on Paramount and MTV, both of which have lost considerable ground to rivals. Along with executive changes at many of Viacom's networks, Bakish in December hired Gumpert from Sony (SNE) - Get SONY GROUP CORPORATION SPONSORED ADR Report PicturesEntertainment, replacing Frederick Huntsberry, who left the company.
Both Arrival, a science-fiction drama with Amy Adams, and Fences, an adaption of the August Wilson play starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, received Oscar nominations for best picture. In all, Paramount received 18 Academy Award nominations, with winners to be announced on Sunday.