It’s widely believed that he will hold the job until Viacom and CBS figure out terms to re-merge, putting CBS chief Les Moonves in charge of the entities that were split a decade ago. The companies are exploring their options at the behest of Sumner Redstone’s National Amusements, which controls 80% of the votes at both companies.
Bakish won’t walk away empty handed. In addition to his Acting CEO job, he was named CEO of a new business unit: the Viacom Global Entertainment Group. It combines Viacom’s International Media Networks division with the Music and Entertainment Group, which includes MTV, Comedy Central, VH1, Spike and Logo. Two networks, TV Land and CMT, will join the Global Entertainment Group.
Meanwhile, the Kids and Family Group will now be called the Nickelodeon Group. The company says that it will “exploit the broad array of growth opportunities in all facets of the kids segment, including recreation and hospitality.”
BET Networks will remain in a separate group.
More than a month ago, when Dooley said he would not stay, Deadline identified Bakish as one of two internal candidates with the inside track for the job. CFO Wade Davis was the other apparent contender.
The CEO job has been up for grabs since August 18 when Philippe Dauman lost his effort to overturn controlling shareholder Sumner Redstone’s decision to oust his former friend.
Board Chairman Tom May lauds Bakish’s “strategic vision and leadership ability.” He adds that directors are “determined to move forward aggressively to strengthen Viacom for the future, whether as a stand-alone company or in a potential combination with CBS.”
Vice Chair Shari Redstone calls Bakish “an exemplary forward thinker” who “embraces disruption and brings teams along with him.”
In his new job, the board says in a release, Bakish will be “responsible for accelerating the growth of Viacom’s industry-leading networks and reinvigorating Viacom’s brands. He will focus on investing in and developing new content, expanding distribution and pursuing strategic growth opportunities in Viacom’s core businesses.”
The company’s next leader joined in 1997. and has run Viacom International Media Networks — and its predecessor, MTV Networks International — since 2007. Earlier the Columbia Business School MBA was a partner with Booz Allen & Hamilton in its Media and Entertainment practice.
“Content is the lifeblood of our business and my near-term focus will be to nurture our creative output and brands, ensuring they remain distinctive, differentiated and powerful in an increasingly competitive global media landscape,” he says.
Following the announcement he sent a memo to his troops vowing to develop a strategic vision, break silos, and to be transparent — without waiting to see if there’s a deal with CBS.
Here’s what he says:
I’m so excited and honored to be stepping in as Acting CEO. And I promise you, I’ll be hitting the ground running.
Because, no question, there’s a lot of work to do. But when I look at our company, I don’t see a mountain of challenges. I see a world of opportunity.
We have some of the most iconic brands in media and entertainment. A huge and growing global footprint. Passionate and loyal fans across every age, stage and screen. When we’re at our best, we tell great stories that drive culture and conversation. And, most importantly to me, we have amazing people.
And it’s time for our next evolution.
For me, getting to the specifics of that evolution will start with a full immersion across the business. But let me tell you what I know now:
· We’re not going to stand still while the CBS merger is being evaluated. I believe there’s a lot of work we can do in the near-term to make us stronger, no matter what the next chapter of Viacom is. It’s time to move forward.
· We need a vision, and a path to getting there. We don’t need change for the sake of change. We need a shared purpose and plan to guide our evolution, for the long and short term. And we’re going to work on that together starting this week.
· It will take everyone’s help, and everyone’s ideas. I don’t believe in silos, and I do believe good ideas can come from anywhere. I want us to share more, and scale more. To take more chances, to be more experimental, more unexpected.
· I love this company, our brands, and our people. And we all deserve to feel a lot better about the work we do every day. There’s an incredible amount of talent and great work happening across this organization that hasn’t gotten the credit it deserves. It’s time to align all of that against a shared vision, and elevate it.
I’m really looking forward to working with the leadership teams at the corporate and divisional level – and all of you – to move us forward. That will include partnering with Doug, Cyma, Debra and VIMN leadership to make sure the Media Networks reorganization that was announced helps to strengthen our brands in every market we operate, and allows us to make the most of our global scale.
I promise to be as transparent and as accessible to you as I can along the way. Please feel free to email me with any questions, comments or suggestions. I’d love to hear from you.
Our people are the heart and soul of the company. I’m very grateful for the talent, creativity and intelligence you bring every day, and I can’t wait to see where we go from here.