Former Paramount Pictures chief Brad Grey dies 3 months after ouster

Former Paramount Pictures chief Brad Grey died on May 14, 2017.
Former Paramount Pictures chief Brad Grey died on May 14, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (Bloomberg) - Brad Grey, the former talent agent who led Paramount Pictures for 12 years before his ouster in February and produced the groundbreaking television series The Sopranos, died on Sunday (May 14) at 59.

The cause was cancer, Grey's family said in a statement. Grey had been the longest-tenured head of a major Hollywood studio before he left Paramount, owned by Viacom Inc. Under his leadership, Paramount topped all major studios in grosses twice, and developed strong relationships with film-makers Michael Bay and Martin Scorsese.

Yet the studio's performance slipped in recent years, with annual North American grosses falling to US$877 million in 2016 from almost US$2 billion in 2011. Grey was ousted after Bob Bakish, who was named chief executive officer of Viacom in November, developed a new direction for Paramount that involved closer collaboration with Viacom's cable networks. Bakish hired Jim Gianopulos in March to replace Grey.

"We are deeply saddened by the sudden passing of our friend, Brad Grey, whose tremendous kindness and talent inspired so many of us in the entertainment industry," Sumner Redstone and Shari Redstone, who control Viacom Inc., said in a statement on Monday.

Grey is survived by his wife Cassandra, four children, his mother, brother and sister.

Grey "brought great storytelling to audiences around the world, and his contributions to the creative community will be enjoyed for years to come", said Chris Dodd, CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America.

Grey, born in New York's Bronx, started his life in the entertainment industry as an agent and built Brillstein-Grey Entertainment. His early career was marked by the discovery and development of comedians such as Bob Saget.

Grey's pioneering TV productions also included The Larry Sanders Show. At Paramount he forged long-term production deals with Scorsese, Bay, J.J. Abrams and Leonardo DiCaprio, among others.

He was a co-founder of Plan B, the production company of actor Brad Pitt, which has produced Oscar-winning features like 12 Years A Slave (2013) and The Departed (2006).