Paramount Pictures and former Paramount Television president Amy Powell have reached a settlement to head off litigation in connection with her abrupt firing in July after nearly 15 years with the studio.
Powell was dismissed following allegations that she made racially insensitive remarks during a work-related conference call. Powell vehemently denied saying anything inflammatory. According to sources close to the situation, she disputed the accounts of four other participants on the call.
“The matter has been resolved,” a rep for Paramount Pictures said. A rep for Powell declined to comment.
It’s understood that the settlement involved a financial payout of her employment contract, which had a little more than a year to run at the time she was let go. On Wednesday, Paramount named Nicole Clemens, formerly of Anonymous Content and FX, as Powell’s successor at Paramount TV.
Powell’s ouster shocked the industry. Tapped to relaunch Paramount TV in 2013, Powell built the division into a bustling production banner that is home to Amazon’s buzzy “Jack Ryan,” Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why” and the upcoming “Maniac,” TNT’s “The Alienist,” and Hulu’s upcoming George Clooney starrer “Catch-22.”
At the time of her firing, sources with knowledge of the situation were surprised by how adamantly Powell denied the accusation, which came from an African-American assistant employed by Paramount who was on the notes call about the comedy series “First Wives Club.” That sparked an internal investigation. In the face of Powell’s denial, studio chief Jim Gianopulos made the call to take the extraordinary step of firing one of the studio’s most prominent executives.
“There is no truth to the allegation that I made insensitive comments in a professional setting — or in any setting,” Powell said in a statement in July. “The facts will come out and I will be vindicated.”
Supporters of Powell see the settlement as a sign that the studio was worried about defending its actions against a wrongful termination lawsuit. Others close to the situation believe Powell would still be employed at Paramount had she been willing to concede that her remarks were interpreted as insensitive by a fellow employee.
The substance of what Powell is alleged to have said is still not clear. “First Wives Club,” produced for Viacom’s Paramount Network cabler, is a remake of the 1996 comedy, this time with a largely African-American cast.
With the Paramount conflict now settled, Powell is said to be considering her options for new opportunities as a producer or as an executive. Before joining Paramount in January 2004, Powell worked as a marketing and digital executive for Sony Pictures Entertainment and Universal Studios Home Entertainment.