Praise for bold decision, but also bruised feelings

A significant number of Paramount execs and producers are troubled over being left out of the loop about Brad Grey’s impending ascension as Sherry Lansing’s successor.

News of Grey’s appointment, expected to be finalized in the next few days, caused consternation among many who were caught off-guard by the development.

With the absence of anything resembling an official notification, uncertainty prevailed over the weekend. By Monday afternoon, however, the usual public reaction was to praise the boldness in Viacom co-president Tom Freston’s decision to choose Grey, who’s expected to begin work as early as next month, once he’s able to complete the details of transferring ownership of Brillstein-Grey to his associates.

Freston met with and talked to a large number of Par players in recent months but gave little indication of how he was leaning in terms of a selection. As a result, the subsequent choice of Grey has left some of those with bruised feelings — even though there was nothing official yet to tell them.

Some insiders were even speculating Monday that the negative reaction might cause Grey’s deal to unravel, but most believe that it’s going to be completed within a few days.

Still, Grey’s appointment generated plenty of support among those who see him as an entrepreneur who can bring a big-picture outlook to a studio that’s been lagging behind rivals.

Grey, renowned as a smooth operator who reveals as little as possible, remained unavailable for comment Monday. Par had no official comment, though execs were briefed on the situation at a staff meeting.

What’s next?

Privately, some execs and producers were worried that a major housecleaning is coming.

“Everyone is spinning today,” one producer noted. “People are intrigued by the Grey (move), but there’s also the question of whether there will be a ton of turnover.”

But one producer shrugged it off, saying the larger issue for Paramount is that Freston wants to fundamentally remake the studio by changing its culture.

“It’s a bold, unexpected move that says, ‘Nobody tells me what to do,’ ” the producer noted. “There’s no longer any question as to who’s in charge. Everyone’s safe for a little while, but it’s not going to be like it was around here.”

Another was sanguine, saying, “Change always causes consternation, and things had stayed constant around here for a long time.”

Many of Paramount’s producers and execs had been hoping studio co-prexy Donald De Line would succeed Lansing.

De Line, who took over for John Goldwyn a year ago, wasn’t available for comment but has indicated to associates he would like to remain in his current post when Grey takes over.

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