UPDATED with Powell’s statement: Five years after she was hired to head Paramount TV, Amy Powell has been fired. Paramount CEO Jim Gianopulos announced the move to staff in an internal memo Thursday afternoon.
In the memo, Gianopulos noted “multiple individuals” who raised “concerns around comments” made by Powell in a “professional setting, which they believed were inconsistent” with Viacom’s values, something she denies.
“Having spent the past several days conducting a thorough investigation into this matter and speaking to those who were present, our Human Resources and Legal teams came to the same conclusion, and we have made the decision to terminate Amy’s employment, effective immediately,” Gianopulos wrote.
Several hours after the news of her firing got out, Powell on Thursday evening issued a statement disputing the charges.
“There is no truth to the allegation that I made insensitive comments in a professional setting — or in any setting,” she said. “The facts will come out and I will be vindicated.”
According to sources, Powell is exploring possible legal action against Paramount over her termination.
Gianopulos did not provide details, and Paramount would not comment beyond confirming his memo but sources say Powell’s dismissal was due to racially insensitive comments. Word is that the comment that led to the termination was made during a call regarding the studio’s upcoming Paramount Network series First Wives Club, a reboot of the original movie penned by an African American writer, Tracy Oliver, and featuring a primarily African American cast. We hear an assistant on the call found the comment, which allegedly was in reaction to this tweet by Oliver and involved a negative black women stereotype, offensive. Here is the tweet, which reportedly was not directed at Powell.
We hear originally the plan was for Powell to get reprimanded but after she firmly denied the charges, the studio moved in to terminate her.
Search for Powell’s replacement will begin immediately. In the interim, Andrew Gumpert, Paramount’s Chief Operating Officer, will help steer Par TV on the operational side and Mireille Soria, Brian Robbins and Wyck Godfrey — Presidents of Paramount Animation, Paramount Players and Paramount Motion Picture Group, respectively — will help with creative.
Powell was named President of Paramount Television in 2013, adding those responsibilities to her position at that time as head of Digital Entertainment and Insurge Pictures. She was largely unknown in TV executive circles when she was handpicked by Gianopulos’s predecessor, the late Paramount chief Brad Grey, to build a TV production unit at the studio.
Under Powell, Paramount TV got to a fast start with multiple series orders within its first year. The company quickly established itself as a major supplier to cable and streaming networks with a slew of series, many of them in partnership with Anonymous Content. They include Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan (Amazon), 13 Reasons Why and Maniac (Netflix), Shooter (USA), Berlin Station (EPIX), The Alienist (TNT), The Haunting of Hill House (Netflix), Catch-22 (Hulu), First Wives Club (Paramount Network), and School of Rock (Nickelodeon).
With the success of Paramount TV, Powell’s profile also rose and she was rumored for a number of top TV jobs in town, including running Amazon Studios.
Gianopulos’ memo follows in its entirety below:
Last week, multiple individuals came to us to raise concerns around comments made by Amy Powell in a professional setting, which they believed were inconsistent with our company’s values. Having spent the past several days conducting a thorough investigation into this matter and speaking to those who were present, our Human Resources and Legal teams came to the same conclusion, and we have made the decision to terminate Amy’s employment, effective immediately.
Amy has made lasting contributions to Paramount in her 14 years with the company, including building a world-class team at Paramount TV. While it is incredibly difficult to part ways with a valued member of our community, it is imperative that we uphold our values and ensure that all employees feel safe and included in the workplace.
We will begin immediately looking for Amy’s replacement. In the interim, Andrew Gumpert, Paramount’s Chief Operating Officer, will provide operational support and Mireille Soria, Brian Robbins and Wyck Godfrey — Presidents of Paramount Animation, Paramount Players and Paramount Motion Picture Group, respectively — will provide creative input, where needed, to the incredibly talented Paramount TV team, which is very well-placed to continue the incredible growth of this division.
Importantly, I want to take this opportunity to remind everyone of the type of company and culture we’re committed to building at Paramount. It’s one of inclusion, honesty and accountability – where diversity is critical to ensuring that all ideas, backgrounds and perspectives are embraced and respected.
We will continue this conversation in smaller groups and on a companywide scale in the coming months and, in the meantime, I want us to take stock of where we are and explore what more we can do to foster a safe, supportive and inclusive workplace. Through direct engagement and an open dialogue, my hope is that we can undertake this progress together, in an environment where each and every one of our employees feels heard and valued.
Thank you for your continued hard work and ongoing contributions to this effort.