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Brad Grey hired as new Paramount chief

‘Sopranos’ producer to succeed Lansing at struggling studio
/ Source: The Associated Press

Talent agent and producer Brad Grey will take over the Paramount Motion Picture Group, succeeding Sherry Lansing, who led the studio for 12 years.

Grey will become chairman and chief executive officer of Paramount on or before March 1, it was announced Thursday by Viacom Inc., the media giant that owns Paramount. Details on his salary and compensation package were not disclosed.

In addition to running creative aspects of the studio, Grey will assume the business duties that had been assigned to Jonathan Dolgen, who left shortly after Tom Freston and Les Moonves were made co-presidents of Viacom in June.

Grey, 47, has run the talent agency Brillstein-Grey Entertainment and also produced films and TV shows, most notably the HBO series “The Sopranos.”

Grey is an unusual choice because he has not worked inside a Hollywood studio. But Viacom noted that his relationships with actors, directors and other talent would help reinvigorate the studio, which has languished over the past few years.

“Brad isn’t totally from the outside,” Freston said Thursday in an interview. “I think he has all the traits, knowledge, insights and connections. He has skills that are transferable.”

Grey said he looks forward to attracting the artists he has worked with over the years to Paramount.

“If we can come up with attractive material, we’re going to have artists from all parts of the community that are going to want to work with us,” he said.

Paramount has struggled at the box office under a regime that took few creative and financial risks. Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone vowed to increase the studio’s budget.

The studio has had some recent success with “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” and “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.”

Paramount is scheduled to release Steven Spielberg’s “War of the Worlds” starring Tom Cruise later this year.

Lansing, 60, will stay with Paramount to help with the transition. She announced in November that she would step down at the end of 2005 when her contract expires.

It was not clear from Thursday’s announcement how Grey has extricated himself from his ownership of his talent agency or his share of the production company called Plan B, which is co-owned by Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt.

Over the past few years, Grey has produced films such as “Scary Movie” and “The Wedding Singer.”

He is also executive producer of the Johnny Depp version of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” a Plan B project slated to be released by Warner Bros. this year.