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Brad Grey Dies At Age 59 From Cancer

Deadline logo Deadline 5/15/2017 Mike Fleming Jr
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In a shocking development, it saddens me to report that Brad Grey has died at age 59. His death, from cancer, comes months after his exit as chairman/CEO of Paramount Pictures, a job he held for 12 years. He died last night with his family in Los Angeles, with his friend and family by his side. This is a shocking development, and I will add all the arrangements as they come across.

Grey was hired by Sumner Redstone in 2005, and before that co-founded with Bernie Brillstein Brillstein-Grey Entertainment. He helped build that company into a management/production powerhouse and where he was executive producer of shows including The Sopranos, The Larry Sanders Show and It’s Garry Shandling’s Show. Grey separately co-founded Plan B with BGE clients Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, leaving to take the Paramount job before production began on what would become a Best Picture winner The Departed, an Americanized remake of the Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs which Martin Scorsese directed with Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon heading a strong ensemble cast for Warner Bros. Pitt eventually took the reins of Plan B and it followed Grey to Paramount, where it stayed in a first look deal for many years until a disagreement over another eventual Best Picture winner, 12 Years A Slave, led to a move to New Regency, and a more recent shift to Annapurna.

The Bronx-born Grey started in show business while he was matriculating at the University of Buffalo, and began his career as an assistant to Harvey Weinstein while he was promoting rock concerts. Grey’s first production was a Frank Sinatra concert in Buffalo at age 20, and then he began signing stand up comics at comedy clubs, with Bob Saget becoming his first client. Many more followed. Even though his long relationship with signature client Shandling ended in lawsuits, Grey was considered the most successful talent manager of his era.

At Paramount, Grey oversaw a studio that included the prestige shingles Paramount Vantage, Paramount Classics and Paramount Insurge, and had early successes that included reviving the Mission: Impossible franchise, and launching Iron Man and other films in a distribution deal with Marvel, and such films as Shrek the Third, An Inconvenient Truth, the Transformers and Paranormal Activity franchises, and prestige pictures including An Inconvenient Truth, There Will Be Blood, No Country for Old Men, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Babel, Sutter Island, The Fighter and True Grit. He oversaw the purchase of DreamWorks SKG that brought Steven Spielberg, Stacey Snider and David Geffen into the fold, and Grey made a separate deal to distribute DreamWorks Animation films for Jeffrey Katzenberg’s company.

Grey ultimately lost his job because Paramount’s output of motion picture releases became fewer and fewer. Much of this was because of the cost-cutting management style of incoming Viacom chief Philippe Dauman, but Paramount stood still while rivals like Disney and Universal did not. Paramount had an early opportunity to acquire Marvel, but did not move forward with a deal that seemed pricey at the time. Disney paid $4 billion, a price that in hindsight seems a bargain. The DreamWorks deal imploded in a personality clash, and Spielberg and Snider were granted a divorce. While that left Paramount in possession of its most successful franchise, Michael Bay’s Transformers, the loss of three major product generators in DreamWorks, Marvel and DreamWorks Animation and an inability to generate enough home grown films, made Paramount an also-ran in the last few years of Grey’s reign. Meanwhile, turmoil at the top of Viacom finally worked itself out with a Dauman exit, Shari Redstone calling the shots and Bob Bakish taking over as Viacom chief. Grey’s lieutenant, Paramount vice chairman Rob Moore was let go after endorsing Dauman’s attempt to sell 49% of the film studio to Dalian Wanda for $4.9 billion, a move that put them afoul of the Redstone clan.

Grey made a presentation to spearhead Paramount’s resurrection, at a time when Paramount had what seemed like a strong spate of releases during Oscar season, including Fences, the Scorsese-directed Silence and the Robert Zemeckis-directed Allied. Fences was in the race till the end, with Viola Davis winning Best Supporting Actress, but others fell short. Grey also set up a major co-financing deal with Chinese companies Shanghai Film Group Corp and Beijing-based Huahua Media for those companies to fund 25% or more of the studio’s entire film slate for the next three years, with an option for a fourth. That deal, worth a potential $1 billion, was reportedly on the rocks as the Chinese government put the brakes on offshore investments, but insiders maintained all along that it would happen as constructed last January. It will be a legacy accomplishment for Grey, and is expected to help incoming chairman/CEO Jim Gianopulos as he rebuilds the studio with the necessary resources from Redstone, the lack of which hampered the latter part of Grey’s chairmanship.

Related slideshow: Stars we've lost in 2017 (via Photo Services)  In Memoriam 2017: Stars We've Lost This Year

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