Par taps U exec as COO

Huntsberry heads to Paramount

Just two months after a promotion to prexy of NBC U TV Intl., Frederick Huntsberry is jumping ship and will resurface in the next few days as chief operating officer at Paramount Pictures.

He will report to Paramount Pictures chairman Brad Grey, with day-to-day responsibilities running the operations of the recently spun-off Viacom-owned film studio.

Huntsberry will join an almost completely revamped management team under Grey, which includes Par prexy Gail Berman, marketing-distribution-operations chieftain Rob Moore, Par Vantage prexy John Lesher and a score of other new production and distribution execs. The title of COO hasn’t been used at the studio since Rob Friedman departed Par a year ago.

It’s not yet clear who will report to Huntsberry in his new role.

The move comes as a surprise: Huntsberry is one of the few execs at NBC Universal who had worked not only at the Hollywood film and TV studio but also at General Electric even before the conglom bought Vivendi-owned Universal two years ago, and he was rapidly moving up in that hierarchy.

Those who have worked with him over the years called Huntsberry, who is in his mid-40s, “a sharp negotiator” and “a rigorous financial thinker.” Although he has both film and TV experience, he’s known not as a Hollywood player but rather as “a meticulous, focused corporate exec who simply gets on with it,” in the words of one.

Paramount under Grey is in the throes of trying to boost and widen its feature film slate, rethink its worldwide distribution efforts post-UIP and fashion a fruitful working relationship with sibling company DreamWorks.

“I think Frederick wanted a bigger challenge, with more hands-on duties than just looking for so-called growth opportunities,” said a source close to NBC Universal. “There’s also the fact that there are now a lot of chiefs jostling there for advantage in the NBC U fold.”

Huntsberry could not be reached for comment.

In his current role as prexy at NBC U Intl. TV, Huntsberry reported to NBC U chairman-CEO Bob Wright, but the job appeared to be more strategic than operational.

Before that promotion, Huntsberry had stepped in as interim prexy-COO at Universal Pictures in January 2005 after Rick Finkelstein had to take a leave of absence following a skiing accident. It was during that period that Huntsberry apparently impressed Stacey Snider, then Universal Pictures chair, who was herself lured to DreamWorks several months ago in the wake of that company’s purchase by Par.

During that period in 2005, Huntsberry continued to oversee all U.S. firstrun syndication and all domestic and international TV sales as exec VP of NBC Universal Television Distribution.

He then reported to both Snider and NBC Universal Television Group prexy Jeff Zucker, though he surrendered his duties as chief financial officer of NBC Universal Television Group.

Before joining U in 1997 as veep of TV business development, Huntsberry was manager of corporate mergers and acquisitions at General Electric for a dozen years. From 1997-99, he was senior VP-chief financial officer of Universal Television & Networks Group; from 1999-2002, he was senior veep-CFO of Universal Pictures and repped U on the operating committees of UIP and United Cinemas Intl.

From 2002-04, Huntsberry was exec veep-CFO of Vivendi Universal Entertainment, with responsibility for all worldwide financial activities. During that period he flanked Universal prexy Ron Meyer and his team in trying to untangle the company from its former owner, Vivendi.

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