3 decades later, Barry Diller gets another move at Paramount

Legendary media mogul Barry Diller is taking another shot at Paramount, the studio he left.

In the early 1990s, Diller lost a bid to buy the studio — to then-Viacom chief Sumner Redstone.

Now 82, Diller is back in the game, exploring a bid to take control of a much more troubled Paramount Global, an individual with knowledge told TheWrap on Monday.

Diller’s company IAC has signed nondisclosure agreements with National Amusements, the holding company of Paramount controlling shareholder Shari Redstone, an individual confirmed to TheWrap. The New York Times first reported the story.

The potential offer comes after Redstone, who is the daughter of Sumner Redstone, canceled a deal with David Ellison’s Skydance Media last month to buy NAI and join the Hollywood studio. While both sides agreed to the economic terms of the deal, there were outstanding issues they disagreed on — most notably, giving all shareholders a consent vote on the sale.

Paramount Office of the CEO

Representatives for National Amusements, Paramount and IAC declined to comment to TheWrap. Diller was said to be unreachable on a yacht in Europe — as the media mogul is supposed to be in July.

The show by Diller, a billionaire who led Paramount Pictures into the heyday of broadcast television in the 1970s and 1980s, may be the missing link for Shari Redstone. She initially favored a deal with Skydance because Ellison offered more promises to keep the company together — even though the deal was far less lucrative for Paramount shareholders than a $26 billion cash offer from an alliance of Sony Pictures Entertainment and Apollo Global Management.

Redstone’s desire to keep the company largely intact — rather than allow it to be sold for pieces as Wall Street analysts have speculated — has figured prominently in negotiations between potential buyers, National Amusements and the board’s special committee. Paramount evaluating deals.

But Diller has a special history with this studio.

He was CEO of Paramount Pictures from 1974 to 1984. Under his tenure, the studio produced popular television series such as “Laverne & Shirley” and “Cheers” and films including “Saturday Night Fever,” “Grease” and “Raiders of the Lost.” Ark.”

In 1983, he was also named president of the company’s Entertainment and Communications Group, which included Simon & Schuster, Inc., Madison Square Garden Corporation, and SEGA Enterprises, Inc.

Then, from 1984 to 1992, Diller left, serving as chairman and CEO of Fox Inc. and was responsible for the creation of the Fox Broadcasting Company, in addition to Fox’s film operations.

In the early 90s, he made his unsuccessful bid for Paramount Communications. At the time, referring to Redstone’s winning bid to buy the legendary studio from Gulf+Western, Diller said in a statement: “They won. We lost. Next.”

Diller is also credited with mentoring an all-star group of Hollywood executives, dubbed “The Killer Dillers,” who later became power brokers themselves. They included Michael Eisner, who was president of Paramount Pictures and later chairman and CEO of Disney; Jeffrey Katzenberg, head of Paramount production under Diller and then a co-founder of DreamWorks SKG; and Dawn Steel, who went on to serve as president of Columbia Pictures.

In 1995, Diller founded IAC, an Internet and media conglomerate that owns brands in 100 countries, including platforms such as Tinder, print and digital publisher Dotdash Meredith and the website Care.com. The company acquired the assets of Silver King Broadcasting in 1996, which owned the Home Shopping Network, and the USA Network in 1997. He is currently chairman and chief executive of IAC and Expedia Group.

Forbes has pegged Diller’s net worth at $4.1 billion.

Important still in the game

Paramount has been in the game since last year. Skydance had an exclusive 30-day negotiating window with National Amusements, but last month Redstone decided it no longer wanted to pursue a deal. NAI controls approximately 77% of Paramount’s voting stock.

In addition to the Skydance and Sony-Apollo bid, Allen Media Group founder Byron Allen also made a $30 billion bid including debt, though it’s unclear how that bid would be financed. The executive director of Warner Bros.

Separately, NAI has received two separate expressions of interest from “Baby Geniuses” producer Steven Paul and former Warner Music Group CEO and chairman Edgar Bronfman Jr.

According to an individual close to Redstone, all three offers are currently in play.

Paramount Office of the CEO

While Redstone weighs her options, Paramount is currently run by three co-CEOs — Brian Robbins, Chris McCarthy and George Cheeks — who replaced Bakish after he stepped down in April.

The trio has outlined a long-term strategic plan that includes $500 million in cost reductions, asset divestitures and merging with other broadcasters or technology platforms in a broadcast joint venture or long-term partnership. CNBC reported Monday that Warner Bros. Discovery is among the companies considering a possible broadcast merger with Paramount+ and Max.

During a town hall with employees last week, Paramount executives revealed they have begun cutting costs, including legal and corporate marketing, though they did not disclose a timeline or confirm how many employees may be affected.

They have also hired bankers to help with asset sales, which could potentially include Pluto TV, BET, VH1 and the Paramount studio portion that would be leased for studio use, four individuals previously confirmed to TheWrap familiar with this matter.

The company also said it was continuing talks with potential partners in international markets that would “significantly transform the scale and economics” of its streaming business, which is currently on track to achieve domestic profitability in 2025.

Paramount, which has a market cap of $6.97 billion, saw its shares rise more than 3% in after-hours trading on Monday. The stock has fallen 29% in the past six months and 37% in the past year. The company also faces $14.6 billion in long-term debt and its credit rating has been downgraded to junk status.

Paramount’s co-CEOs will update Wall Street on its long-term strategic plan during its second-quarter earnings call.

Additional reporting by Sharon Knolle, Lucas Manfredi and Sharon Waxman.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top