Viacom reshuffles

MTV's Bakish upped to Freston's No. 2

NEW YORK — Tom Freston has reshuffled the operations he took over two months ago as the newly appointed co-president of Viacom, engineering changes in movie theaters, music publishing, theme parks, licensing and merchandising, international cable networks and book publishing.

Linchpin of the reshuffling is Freston’s promotion of Bob Bakish from head of ad sales for MTV Networks to the new post of exec VP of operations for all areas managed by Freston.

“Bakish will be my right-hand man and my left-hand man,” Freston said. Bakish takes direct responsibility for two divisions that report to Paramount Enterprises: the Famous Players Canadian theater circuit and music-publishing unit Famous Music.

A key benefit of putting moviehouses and music publishing under Bakish, Freston said, is that it will allow Sherry Lansing, president of the Paramount Motion Picture Group, to focus more singlemindedly on making movies. Like Bakish, Lansing reports to Freston.

Loser in the reorganization is Tom McGrath, exec VP of the Viacom Entertainment Group and president of Paramount Enterprises, who will leave the company after a transition period.

“By the time I completed the reorganization,” Freston said, “there simply was no job left” for McGrath.

Bakish is not the only executive to get an upgrade. Herb Scannell, president of Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite, Spike TV, TV Land, Noggin and the N, will add Paramount Parks and Viacom Consumer Products to his bailiwick, both to be swallowed up by Nickelodeon Enterprises.

Licensing synergy

Freston said Nick Enterprises is the sixth largest consumer-licensing group in the world, spinning off $3.5 billion per year in retail sales, so it makes sense to fold Par’s theme parks and the merchandising and licensing of its characters under the Nick Enterprises banner.

Another executive who gains more duties is Bill Roedy, president of MTV Networks Intl., who adds the Paramount Comedy Channel U.K. and Paramount Comedy Spain to his already bulging portfolio of 71 international cable nets.

Scannell and Roedy will continue to report to Judy McGrath, promoted last week by Freston to chair-CEO of MTV Networks.

There’ll be no changes at Simon & Schuster, where Jack Romanoscontinues as prexy-CEO, reporting to Freston.

The two executives who will report directly to Bakish are Robb Chase, president and CEO of Famous Players, and Irwin Robinson, president of Famous Music.

Before taking over MTV Networks’s ad-sales strategy, Bakish was senior VP of planning, development and technology for Viacom. He joined Viacom in 1997 from Booz Allen & Hamilton, where he was a partner in the media and entertainment practice.

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