How is Paramount still alive

how is paramount still alive

The latest drama enveloping Paramount Global will come as no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to the once-storied Hollywood relic as it has lurched from crisis to catastrophe over the past 20 years.

Why it matters: Paramount is already a shadow of its former self. Eventually, what's left will barely be worth fighting over.

Driving the news: The woman who controls the company, Shari Redstone, snatched defeat from the jaws of victory last week as she scuttled a planned merger with David Ellison's Skydance Media.

  • Redstone had spent six months negotiating a complicated deal that would have given control of Paramount to Ellison and RedBird Capital, only to call it off as it neared the finish line.
  • The chief reason for her decision: Her reluctance to let go of a family heirloom she fought very hard to get.

Catch up fast: Over the past two decades, Paramount (née ViacomCBS, née Viacom and CBS Corp.) has been a model of instability.

  • In 2006, Viacom and CBS were split amid clashing cultures and a rivalry between their respective leaders, Tom Freston and Leslie Moonves.
  • Redstone re-merged the two back together in 2019, a move Moonves vehemently opposed.

Between the lines: What was poised to turn into an ugly boardroom fight became even uglier when Moonves was accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct in one of the biggest scandals of the #MeToo era. He was eventually fired in 2018.

  • The merger put Paramount Pictures and Viacom cable networks like MTV and Comedy Central under the same roof as broadcast network CBS and a streaming service that would become Paramount+.
  • Redstone's decision to form what was then called ViacomCBS was seen as misguided: Too small to compete with growing giants like Netflix, yet big enough to make a sale complicated.

Flashback: Like many media companies, Paramount is controlled by a powerful minority investor — in this case, Shari Redstone, who inherited it from her father Sumner in a family drama that helped inspire HBO's "Succession."

  • Before his health started to fail, Sumner Redstone was pretty adamant that his daughter should not inherit his empire.
  • In 2007, he called his daughter a "credible candidate" to succeed him but said he preferred to have the board choose his successor.
  • The familial drama was not isolated to father-daughter. Shari's brother, Brent, sued their father in 2006, in an attempt to break up the company.
  • Shari eventually won a drawn out, and at times extremely ugly, boardroom battle after Sumner's mental capacity was questioned.

What's next: For the foreseeable future (which, this being Paramount, is measured more in weeks than in years) the company will be run by an unwieldy triumvirate of Brian Robbins, Chris McCarthy and George Cheeks.

  • The three were elevated after Bob Bakish, Redstone's handpicked protege, was unceremoniously defenestrated after their relationship deteriorated.
  • One big reason for that deterioration: Bakish was against the very Skydance deal that Redstone herself unilaterally abandoned.

Get the rundown of the biggest stories of the day with Axios Daily Essentials.

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