Exec returns to Hollywood after six-year absence

Former Warner Bros. co-topper Bob Daly’s back in Hollywood after a six-year absence, signing on as an adviser to Viacom.

Viacom co-prexy/co-COO Tom Freston and Paramount Pictures chairman Brad Grey announced Thursday that Daly has agreed to take on a newly created non-exec post to consult on the movie studio and cable businesses — the “growth” side of the conglom run by Freston. Viacom chief Sumner Redstone expects to complete the split of that side of operations from the “value” portion of the company during the first quarter next year.

Daly’s coming on board as Freston and Grey attempt to transform and re-invent Par as more talent-friendly and less cautious, with a strong orientation toward younger audiences.

Stabilizing force?

Paramount, which has generated subpar box office in recent years, is now headed by two execs — Freston and Grey — whose backgrounds are mostly in TV and are bringing in Fox Entertainment prexy Gail Berman, who officially succeeds Donald De Line as studio president Monday. The addition of Daly, who ran Warner Bros. with Terry Semel for 20 years, gives the execs access to a respected vet at a time when uncertainty occasionally pervades the lot.

“I admire what they’re trying to build and look forward to contributing whatever I can to their success,” Daly said. “I’ve always loved the media business, and I’m happy to work with Tom and Brad in any way they think I can be helpful.”

Daly’s experience includes 25 years at CBS and four years as managing partner of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

He told Daily Variety that the advising agreement formalizes what had been an informal arrangement in recent months as Freston and Grey sought out his counsel.

Daly noted that his relationship with Grey dates back to the late 1980s when Warner acquired Lorimar, which owned the Brillstein management company. Under that deal, Bernie Brillstein regained control of the company, where Grey was running the day-to-day operations.

During Daly and Semel’s tenure, Warner evolved from a traditional movie studio to a massive entertainment conglom with hugely successful franchises such as the “Batman” and “Lethal Weapon” series and such hits as “The Fugitive,” “Driving Miss Daisy,” “Chariots of Fire” and “Unforgiven.”

Daly and Semel surprised the town by leaving in 1999, with both declaring that they wanted a change of pace after having greenlit more than 400 movies.

“I needed to do something different after working as hard as I did,” Daly admitted Thursday.

Charity work

Since departing the Dodgers in early 2004, Daly’s received a variety of offers but notes the interest usually flags when he insists he doesn’t want a job because he wants to spend 50% of his time on other projects such as charity work. Earlier this year, he was named chairman of the board of trustees of Save the Children; he also sits on the boards of the American Film Institute, the Museum of Television and Radio and the dean’s advisory board for the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.

Daly, 68, is married to songwriter Carole Bayer Sager.

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