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Dealmaker Grey in talks to run Paramount

‘Sopranos’ executive producer reportedly to replace Lansing
/ Source: Reuters

Hollywood dealmaker Brad Grey, an executive producer of the hit television show “The Sopranos,” has emerged as the leading candidate to succeed Sherry Lansing as head of Viacom Inc.’s Paramount Pictures, media reports said Sunday.

Viacom co-President Tom Freston is in advanced negotiations with Grey, the chairman of talent management firm Brillstein-Grey Entertainment, but talks are at a delicate stage and there is no guarantee a deal will be reached, the Wall Street Journal reported in its online edition, citing people familiar with the situation.

While sticking points remain, a deal could be announced as early as next week if they can be sorted out, the Journal said.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Grey, 47, was expected to meet with Viacom executives Monday.

Unlike Lansing, who has more than 30 years experience as a studio executive, Grey has little hands-on movie experience, the Times added. However, he has a willingness to take risks, and strong ties with actors and agents, whose frayed relationships with Paramount Freston is eager to mend, the paper said.

Viacom sources told the Times there were limited choices for the job in part because top outside candidates were under contract with other studios. The paper said a top inside candidate, Paramount production president Donald De Line, might be passed over in an attempt to send a clear signal to Hollywood that they would be dealing with a new Paramount.

Representatives of both Paramount and Viacom declined to comment Sunday. Grey was out of town and unavailable for comment.

Brillstein-Grey’s clients include Brad Pitt, Nicolas Cage and Adam Sandler — all of whom currently have movies in the top 10 at the North American box office. Television shows that have been produced by the firm and Grey also include “The Larry Sanders Show,” “NewsRadio,” and “Just Shoot Me.”

Paramount Pictures has been looking for a new chief since Lansing announced in November that she would retire from her position as chairman and chief executive of the film studio when her contract expires at the end of this year.

Lansing, who shattered Hollywood’s glass ceiling by becoming the first woman to head a major production studio, has denied that she is leaving because of Paramount’s recent lackluster performance.