Viacom Names Bakish Acting CEO

Viacom named long-time executive Robert Bakish as acting president and CEO, taking over for the current temporary chief – Thomas Dooley – effective Nov. 15.

Bakish has been with Viacom since 1997, the past 10 years as head of the programmer's international business. In his new role Bakish will focus on investing in and developing new content, expanding distribution and pursuing strategic opportunities om Viacom’s core businesses.

In addition Viacom said Bakish also will become president and CEO of Viacom Global Entertainment Group, a new unit that will house Viacom’s International Media Networks division with the company’s Music and Entertainment Group, which includes MTV, Comedy Central, VH1, Spike and Logo. In addition, TV Land and CMT will join the Global Entertainment Group portfolio under Bakish.

Viacom’s Kids and Family Group will be renamed the Nickelodeon Group and BET Networks, home of leading brands among African American adults, will continue to function as a dedicated and separate group.

“I look forward to working closely with the board of directors, senior management and our talented and hardworking people around the world to realize the full potential of Viacom’s outstanding assets for the benefit of our audiences, partners and stockholders,” Bakish said in a statement. "Content is the lifeblood of our business and my near-term focus will be to nurture our creative output and brands, ensuring they remain distinctive, differentiated and powerful in an increasingly competitive global media landscape.”

Bakish will be the third Viacom CEO since August, when long-time chief Philippe Dauman stepped down after a heated battle with his former mentor and Viacom’s largest shareholder, Sumner Redstone. Dauman was replaced by Dooley, himself a long-time lieutenant and Viacom employee, who had initially agreed to stay in the top spot until Sept.30. But shortly after that announcement, Dooley, who was also being considered as a permanent CEO replacement, dropped out of the running, saying he would leave the company on Nov. 15.

The timing of that announcement came around the time Redstone and the rest of Viacom’s board of directors were considering whether a merger with its former corporate sister – CBS – would make sense. Earlier this month, Viacom’s board of directors appointed a special committee to investigate whether a merger would make sense. 

Bakish joined Viacom in 1997 and has held leadership positions throughout the organization, most recently serving as president and CEO of Viacom International Media Networks (VIMN) and its predecessor company, MTV Networks International, since 2007. In this role, he was responsible for all of Viacom’s media networks and related businesses outside the United States.

“Bob’s record of innovation and achievement at Viacom, combined with his strategic vision and leadership ability, make him highly qualified for this position,” said Viacom chairman Tom May in a statement. “We are determined to move forward aggressively to strengthen Viacom for the future, whether as a stand-alone company or in a potential combination with CBS. There is a great deal of opportunity ahead and Bob is a superb leader to drive this effort, fully empowered to take the actions necessary to position Viacom for success.”

Bakish’s appointment had been expected for several days. The long-time executive also received the blessing of vice chair Shari Redstone.

“To be a successful leader in the industry today requires continuous flexibility, a global perspective, a commitment to innovation and an embrace of change,” Shari Redstone said in a statement. “Bob is an exemplary forward thinker who embodies these traits, embraces disruption and brings teams along with him. Under his leadership our great employees will be supported in their efforts to bring world class content and experiences to our audiences, while we continue to drive improvements in Viacom’s financial performance.”