Paramount Global pushed out CEO Bob Bakish Monday — removing a major opponent to the media giant’s possible merger with Skydance Media.

Bakish, who had run Paramount since 2019, will be replaced by an Office of the CEO consisting of three executives — George Cheeks, President and CEO of CBS; Chris McCarthy, President and CEO, Showtime/MTV Entertainment Studios and Paramount Media Networks; and Brian Robbins, President and CEO of Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon.

Cheeks, McCarthy and Robbins will work closely with CFO Naveen Chopra and the Board of Directors, the debt-saddled company said as it released its quarterly earnings.

Bob Bakish had run Paramount since 2019. Andrew H. Walker/Shutterstock

The trio of execs will develop “a comprehensive, long-range plan to accelerate growth and develop popular content, materially streamline operations, strengthen the balance sheet, and continue to optimize the streaming strategy,” on an interim basis, the company said.

The move comes as Bakish has clashed with Paramount controlling shareholder Shari Redstone, who questioned whether the CEO pursued strategic opportunities for the company “aggressively enough,” including a potential sale of the Showtime channel, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

At the same time, Bakish has privately argued against the Skydance deal because it dilutes common shareholders, according to reports.

“Paramount Global includes exceptional assets and we believe strongly in the future value creation potential of the company,” Redstone said Monday. “I have tremendous confidence in George, Chris and Brian. They have both the ability to develop and execute on a new strategic plan and to work together as true partners. I am extremely excited for what their combined leadership means for Paramount Global and for the opportunities that lie ahead.”

George Cheeks, president and CEO of CBS Getty Images

Bakish joined Viacom in 1997 and took on roles of increasing seniority across the company’s operations, becoming CEO of Viacom in 2016 and the CEO of the combined company in 2019. 

In recent weeks, Bakish joined a chorus of large common shareholders including Mario Gabelli’s Gamco Investors, Ariel Investments, Matrix and Aspen Sky Trust, in slamming the deal because it destroys value for common shareholders.

Brian Robbins, president and CEO of Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon. Getty Images for CinemaCon

In order to quell shareholders, Bloomberg reported Sunday that Redstone and independent film producer David Ellison have both offered concessions to make the deal more appealing to the company’s other investors.

Ellison is proposing to buy a block of Paramount shares at a premium to their current price to help shore up the company’s finances.

Redstone, who owns a majority of the company’s voting shares, have agreed to let nonvoting shareholders have a say on whether any transaction should be approved.

Chris McCarthy, president and CEO, Showtime/MTV Entertainment Studios and Paramount Media Networks Paramount Network

On Monday, The New York Times reported that Skydance had offered to provide the combined company with a $3 billion cash infusion in recent days that it could use to pay down debt and buy back stock. 

Skydance also offered to give shareholders of the media giant a larger stake in the combined company than it had originally proposed, The Times said. 

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