Simon to head Viacom in West

Former NBC Entertainment exec Perry Simon is reportedly bound for Viacom Entertainment Group to run its West Coast production operations.

He apparently would replace Gus Lucas, a seven-year Viacom veteran who, according to sources, is resigning as exec VP of Viacom Entertainment Group and president of West Coast operations, moving into an indie production agreement with the company.

Simon only recently exited as exec VP of primetime programs at NBC (Daily Variety, July 15), where he’d served as chief lieutenant to entertainment division president Warren Littlefield since July 1990.

At the time he left, NBC said Simon would remain involved in its “Great Escapes” venture, a just-premiered series of in-houseprimetime serials; but Simon added that the arrangement was non-exclusive so that he could “see the other world of opportunities out there.”

Neither Simon, who is vacationing, nor Viacom officials could be reached for comment.

Lucas joined Viacom in 1986 as exec VP of the entertainment group and was named president of West Coast operations in April 1987. He also directly oversaw Viacom Prods., the company’s network TV production unit, since the exit a few years ago of Tom Tannenbaum.

Prior to Viacom, Lucas spent 16 years at ABC, starting as a junior analyst in 1970 and eventually serving as VP and assistant to the president at ABC Entertainment, a post he assumed in June 1983.

Viacom produces “Matlock” and the “Perry Mason” mystery movies, both in association with the Fred Silverman Co., for ABC and NBC, respectively. The company sold two new series last year to Fox Broadcasting Co., “Flying Blind” and “Key West”; both were canceled after one season.

Although officials couldn’t be reached, in a recent interview Viacom Entertainment chairman Neil S. Braun — who replaced Henry Schleiff in that job a year ago — said the company was committed to becoming a major supplier of software.

One major asset is Viacom’s ownership of such cable channel franchises as MTV , Nickelodeon and VH-1 that can be used to generate programming and structure dual-exhibition deals on cable as well as on the networks and in syndication. Still, the addition of Simon may signal a specific desire to increase production directly for the webs out of the West Coast.

Earlier this week, Viacom announced the appointment of former Reeves Entertainment exec Michael Yudin as senior VP, sponsored programming and co-productions, reporting to Braun (Daily Variety, Sept. 1).

Simon began his NBC tenure in 1980, climbing through the ranks after starting as an associate in comedy programming.

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