Paramount says CEO Bob Bakish is stepping down, will be replaced by a trio of executives

Bob Bakish, president and chief executive officer of Viacom, attends the fourth day of the annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference, July 11, 2023 in Sun Valley, Idaho. 

David A. Grogan | CNBC

Paramount Global CEO Bob Bakish is stepping down, the company announced Monday, as merger negotiations with Skydance Media continue.

Bakish will also leave the company’s board and will be replaced by a so-called “Office of the CEO.” Paramount will now be led by CBS president and CEO George Cheeks; Chris McCarthy, president and CEO of Showtime/MTV Entertainment Studios and Paramount Media Networks; and Brian Robbins, the head of Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon. The company said the three executives will work closely with Paramount CFO Naveen Chopra and the board.

In the release on Monday, Paramount said the new leadership is “working with the board to 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.”

Paramount also reported its first-quarter earnings after the bell on Monday.

The ouster comes as Paramount and Skydance Media inch closer to a possible merger, CNBC previously reported. The companies are in exclusive talks to pursue the deal until May 3, and a special committee is already in place.

Bakish has privately dissented against the merger, claiming it will dilute common shareholders, CNBC reported. As part of the proposed deal, nearly 50% of the merged company would be owned by Skydance and its private equity backers, while common shareholders would own the remainder of Paramount, which would remain publicly traded.

On Saturday CNBC reported Bakish could be out as CEO as soon as Monday, and ahead of the earnings call, after losing the trust of Paramount Global controlling shareholder Shari Redstone, who could see his removal as a means to accelerate a Skydance deal, CNBC reported Monday.

The departure also comes as Paramount has been in negotiations with cable company Charter Communications for the carriage of its TV networks including CBS and MTV. The deadline for those negotiations is Tuesday.

The special committee — which is in charge of accepting or rejecting transactions — and Skydance, which is backed by private equity firms KKR and RedBird Capital Partners, have been narrowing in on how to value Skydance’s assets as part of a merger, as well as how much equity to add to the company, CNBC previously reported.

Skydance intends to name its CEO David Ellison as head of Paramount if the deal were to happen, CNBC previously reported.

— CNBC’s Alex Sherman contributed to this report.

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