Freston quits Viacom; Bollywood on hold?

MUMBAI: Viacom, which has been seriously mulling entry into the Indian film space in terms of co-productions, has had some serious shuffles at the top management level. In an unexpected move, Viacom Inc. president and CEO Tom Freston (who was in India early this year for FICCI Frames) has resigned from his post. He will be succeeded by Philippe P. Dauman.

It may be recalled here that Freston in his visit to India had announced that Viacom, which has under its wings the Paramount and DreamWorks movie studios, would be looking beyond distribution of films in the subcontinent by entering into co-productions. Evincing a keen interest in working with Indian producers, Freston had touted India as a focus point for Paramount’s new strategy.

As an immediate fallout of this recent change in the top management, the India story may well be put on the backburner for the time being. It now remains to be seen how and more importantly when Viacom steps up on its India strategy as far as Bollywood is concerned. Pertinent to note here is that another international company – Sony Pictures Entertainment’s first Indian co-production – Saawariya – with Sanjay Leela Bhansali is already on the floors and is slated for a release later this year.

Meanwhile, Viacom has also appointed Thomas E. Dooley to the newly created position of senior executive vice president and chief administrative officer.

Viacom executive chairman and founder Sumner M. Redstone said, “Viacom has tremendous potential to grow aggressively, both domestically and internationally. We have extremely strong and unique entertainment brands that resonate with audiences through all distribution platforms and a significant presence in worldwide motion picture production and distribution through our Paramount studio. I have worked closely with Philippe Dauman for many years, and I have a comfort level with him and high regard for his leadership abilities, strong financial and operational skills, and superb judgment. The entire Viacom board and I are confident he has the strategic and creative vision to take the company forward and the drive and energy to execute relentlessly on our strategy.”

Freston added, “I’ve spent over 26 years at Viacom, 18 of them with Sumner. With my exceptional colleagues, we built a worldwide powerhouse of brands and businesses, literally from scratch. I leave many good friends knowing that they have an unmatched track record, a great plan going forward and incredible abilities to execute on it in this digital age. I have worked closely with Philippe Dauman and Tom Dooley over the years and have the highest respect for their abilities. I have every confidence that Viacom is well positioned to prosper under Philippe’s leadership. I will do all I can to insure a smooth transition. I particularly want to thank my colleagues from all over the company who have been inspiring to work with and have been so instrumental in the great success we’ve had.”

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