Shock ripples through CBS WHCD party

There was confusion and anxiety at a joint CBS-Politico party today before the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner, as staffers were shocked by the news that Paramount Global CEO Bob Bakish was set to leave suddenly early Monday morning.

There have been rumblings about Bakish for days as the company enters the final stage of exclusive merger negotiations with David Ellison's Skydance. But his impending departure sparked a flurry of anxious speculation tonight in Washington, D.C. Ellison has always been mostly interested in the movie studio and the historical piece. Although it appears that Skydance plans to keep the company safe, at least for a while, network insiders are not betting on it and feel uncertain about the future of CBS, and about who might be running Paramount Global in a few days — the troika of top executives. New CEO?

“We knew changes were coming, but no one expected Bob to move so quickly. Who knows what the next step will be?” Employees speculated CBS would be sold, handed over to Jeff Zucker to run, and other theories The former CNN chief is heading a joint venture between RedBird Capital, a Skydance backer, and an Emirati investment fund, a Paramount Global executive told Deadline at the event.

Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison is a major investor in Skydance and key to any deal. A few CBS interviewees at the event expressed some concerns about the billionaire's ties to Donald Trump. (According to reports, he has been supporting Tim Scott and has not donated to the Republican presidential nominee this campaign cycle. David Ellison just gave nearly $1 million to Joe Biden.)

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Shari Redstone, who controls Paramount through her family's holding company NAI, put Bakish in charge of the combined ViacomCBS in 2019. He is said to be less supportive of the Skydance deal, according to sources.

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