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David Zaslav Is Out of the Paramount Business

Warner Bros. Discovery is no longer pursuing an acquisition of Paramount Global, CNBC reported on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Skydance is still performing its due diligence on a potential merger with Paramount — or perhaps an acquisition of its parent company.

WBD chief David Zaslav met with Paramount CEO Bob Bakish in December to discuss a potential merger. Those discussions heated up in January, but CNBC says those talks have cooled since.

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When reached by IndieWire, Paramount and Warner Bros. Discovery each had no comment on this story.

Warner Bros. Discovery cannot be involved in any M&A activity until April 8, when the Reverse Morris Trust lock-up period from Discovery’s WarnerMedia deal with AT&T expires.

Paramount has set up a special committee with a financial adviser to sift through potential bids. It is likely the committee has already evaluated Byron Allen’s $30 billion bid; there is a contingent of analysts who believe Allen does not have sufficient funding.

Comcast is not interested in acquiring Paramount either, CNBC wrote, though the two companies continue to discuss bundling or even merging Peacock and Paramount+, as first reported by the Wall Street Journal. A new survey from Civic Science found that consumers would be excited by the idea of a combination of Peacock and Paramount+, but three-quarters of respondents said they’d be at least “somewhat” to “very concerned” about the combined cost.

The news of Zaslav pulling back comes as Paramount’s stock nears a 52-week low; the company is set to announce its earnings for the fourth quarter of 2023 on Wednesday, February 28. Warner Bros. Discovery’s own shares tumbled 10 percent last Friday after the company missed on earnings expectations from Wall Street, despite adding overall subscribers to Max and Discovery+.

Earlier this month, Paramount laid off 800 employees, a cost-cutting move made in the hopes of returning the company to earnings growth for 2024.

One of the more likely scenarios for Paramount is that Skydance’s David Ellison buys National Amusements, Inc., the movie-theater chain owned by Shari Redstone that holds 77 percent of Paramount Global’s voting shares. So Ellison would be buying control of Paramount Global rather than the assets itself. IndieWire reported Skydance and NAI were “kicking the tires” on such an acquisition back in December.

Should Paramount be bought out and Bakish fired, he’ll get a golden parachute worth $50 million.

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