Shakeup At Paramount Claims Digital Vet Lesinski; Maguire Gets Home Media

David Caruso and Tom Lesinski at CES 2008

Tom Lesinski, who has headed digital at Paramount (NYSE: VIA) as long as it’s mattered, is out in a major reorganization that folds the Paramount Digital Entertainment into other divisions, most notably a single unit that combines home entertainment, digital licensing and television licensing. Home Media Distribution will be headed by Dennis Maguire, currently in charge of home entertainment, as president of Worldwide Home Media Distribution.

The moves reflect the changing financial environment for movies and TV at a time of dwindling DVD sales, distribution of content through more platforms, and increased value for digital licensing as Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX), Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) and others look for streaming content. Or as Paramount Chairman Brad Grey explained in the internal memo (posted below), it’s “an effort to be forward thinking about our business at a time when the global entertainment market is evolving.” That includes cutting the costs of doing that business.

Among a host of changes, Amy Powell, EVP-Interactive Entertainment, adds creation of content for digital and online games, while LeeAnne Stables, EVP-Worldwide Marketing Partnerships, takes on licensing of traditional video games. Both will report to Megan Colligan, who is being promoted to president, Domestic Marketing & Distribution.

The picture with this article is of Lesinski with David Caruso at CES in 2008, a snapshot of a moment when you could see that the industry was shifting — a little faster than some wanted, a lot slower than the innovators had in mind — to a time when online video would be more than popular user-gen snippets and pirated movies. One small sign of that: TV star Caruso, avidly engaged in a technological business venture, asked me to introduce him to the digital exec, who had been in the job as president for four days.

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Memo from Brad Grey:

I am writing to let you know about a number of organizational changes and promotions that we are making at the studio. We are strategically realigning several of our divisions in an effort to be forward thinking about our business at a time when the global entertainment market is evolving.

Our hope is that these moves will allow us to best build upon the successes our studio has enjoyed in recent years as well as enable us to fully capitalize on future growth opportunities.

Today we are announcing the creation of a new division called Home Media Distribution, a single organization based here on the lot, that will oversee our home entertainment, digital licensing and television licensing activities worldwide. Dennis Maguire is being promoted to President, Worldwide Home Media Distribution, and will report to Vice Chairman Rob Moore. In addition, in light of international’s growing significance to our studio, we are centralizing global theatrical management oversight in Los Angeles so as to be closer to the strategic decision making for this part of our business. Marketing and sales functions currently performed locally in territories worldwide will remain unchanged.

We are also making a number of other key promotions and staff changes as part of this realignment.

— Josh Greenstein has been named Chief Marketing Officer for the studio, overseeing all marketing efforts through all distribution channels for the studio worldwide.

— Megan Colligan is also expanding her role and has been promoted to President, Domestic Marketing & Distribution. She will now oversee all domestic theatrical distribution and marketing for the studio. Josh and Megan will continue to report to Rob; and Megan will also report to Josh on marketing.

— Jim Tharp, President, Domestic Theatrical Distribution, will retire as of June 2012 and will assist Rob in the transition to the new team.

— Don Harris, who has served as Executive Vice President of Sales, is being promoted to President, Domestic Theatrical Distribution, and will assume Jim’s day-to-day responsibilities reporting to Megan.

— Hal Richardson will take on the role of President, Home Media Distribution, reporting to Dennis.

— Paramount Digital Entertainment (PDE) will now be folded into other divisions of the studio. Amy Powell, Executive Vice President, Interactive Entertainment, will add the creation of content for digital and online games to her current responsibilities. LeeAnne Stables, Executive Vice President, Worldwide Marketing Partnerships, will assume responsibility for licensing of traditional video games. Both Amy and LeeAnne will continue to report to Megan. Tom Lesinksi, President of PDE, will be departing the studio.

As you can see from what I have outlined above, we have worked to truly align our business for the future. Our hope is that this new configuration will allow us to be more flexible and to best capitalize on all opportunities across the breadth of the studio.

Creating this new integrated structure is only possible because of the wealth of talent we have at Paramount. Josh, Megan, Don, Dennis and Hal are widely and deservedly recognized as leaders and innovators and we are fortunate to have them on our team. I want to thank them for their great work and congratulate them on their new positions. Rob, Frederick and I are looking forward to working closely with them and their teams on finalizing and implementing our new organizational structures over the next several weeks.

Jim’s retirement next summer marks the end of an era. I want to personally thank him for his many years of service, his numerous accomplishments, and for being a real friend to all of us at Paramount Pictures. He has truly set the gold standard for excellence in the distribution field and we are grateful for his active and ongoing guidance in the transition to our new team.

We also appreciate Tom’s many contributions to Paramount’s success. He was instrumental in helping us break new ground in the digital arena and we wish him great success in the future.

I want to thank our executive team led by Rob, COO Frederick Huntsberry and Motion Picture Group President Adam Goodman. Rob was especially central in the creation of this new structure.

I want to close by saying thank you to all of you for your great work at this studio. I am very proud and grateful for what you do for Paramount each and every day.

Brad

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