The Real Golden Bachelorette?

I’m fairly sure Joan Vassos is a pretty decent woman.  For the uninitated, PEOPLE’s Skyler Caruso profiled her last month:

Meet The Golden Bachelorette’s leading lady!  Joan Vassos has been named the star of the inaugural season of ABC’s female-led version of the senior dating show, exciting news that was revealed at the Disney Upfronts presentation in N.Y.C. on Tuesday, May 14.

Vassos is no stranger to the Bachelor franchise, having appeared as a contestant on Gerry Turner’s season of The Golden Bachelor. However, her journey to find love was cut short when she voluntarily decided to withdraw from the series to prioritize her family.

Vassos expanded on her self-elimination when speaking on The Women Tell-All episode in November 2023, revealing that she rushed to her daughter’s side after she experienced postpartum depression following the birth of her baby. 

That’s a sweet story.  ABC will be deploying it in going head-to-head with SURVIVOR (not to mention THE MASKED SINGER and THE FLOOR) on what bodes to be an exceptionally competitive Wednesday night this fall.  But in the cutthroat world of broadcast television, or what’s left of it, they might want to hit pause and consider a recasting.  Because no matter how many tricks may be up the producers’ sleeves, there is no older single woman in Hollywood who is proving to be more compelling and consternating than Shari Redstone.

Yesterday, Redstone threw both her company and Wall Street into a tizzy when she decided to hit the abort button on what was appearing to be a done deal, as THE WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Jessica Toonkel reported:

Shari Redstone isn’t ready to exit the entertainment business just yet.

The media heiress has ended discussions to sell her controlling stake in Paramount Global to Skydance Media and merge the two companies, drawing to a close months of negotiations in one of the messiest deal dramas to play out in recent years.

Redstone’s decision marks a stunning about-face, after she advocated behind the scenes for months for a deal with Skydance. She billed its backers—including CEO David Ellison—as the best stewards for Paramount, owner of the namesake film studio, broadcaster CBS and cable channels such as MTV and Nickelodeon.

In the wake of this, trade pundits’ theories as to why this change of heart occurred were proliferous. THE WRAP’s Alexei Barrionuevo offered a cogent summary:

Why did she do it? An individual close to the deal said Redstone communicated her decision to cancel the pending sale to Skydance on Tuesday morning — even before Paramount’s special committee was meant to meet on the matter.  Redstone’s concerns about her own legal liability and a dispute over whether to give both voting and non-voting shareholders a consent vote played deciding roles in the deal’s failure to launch, three individuals told TheWrap.

Look, I’ve dealt with plenty of commitment-phobic women, both professionally and personally, and I’m sure you’ve known more than your share as well.  And those would seem to be logical reasons to have cold feet.  But others with inside knowledge would offer that there are more selfish ones in play, as Barrionuevo expounded:

Paramount and Skydance negotiators agreed to financial terms last week that would have paid Redstone $2.25 billion for her stake in National Amusements, which controls 77% of Paramount’s voting stock. 

Redstone, who had been trying to build an indemnification plan to shield herself from potential shareholder lawsuits, decided she still wasn’t satisfied and communicated her desire to end the talks to Skydance before the committee met, two people familiar with the deal told TheWrap.

“She made the decision,” one person said. “She just wants the most money for herself.” 

The DEADLINE duo of Jill Goldsmith and Anthony D’Alessandro expounded on that point:

There are a number of reasons why things collapsed, depending on who’s talking. Deadline hears that all of the deal’s economic terms were set but other issues were not, like seeking consent for the deal from a “majority of the minority” of shareholders not named Redstone. Redstone wanted to, Ellison, not surprising, did not.

But they also touched upon what may be very well be at the heart of this decision, or rather, indecision:

There’s been speculation that it’s hard for Redstone to relinquish mogul status; or her family company; or that she wanted more for her stake; or that maybe she just didn’t like Ellison, although there was a sense that they were somewhat simpatico at first.

There you go.  A woman with daddy issues who just didn’t see a fellow nepobaby like Ellison, that young interloper, as “her type” upon further review.  Happens all the time in the real world.

Except in this world, there have already been substantial ramifications.  Per MARKETWATCH’s Bill Peters:

Shares of Paramount Global slid on Tuesday following reports that Shari Redstone’s National Amusements — Paramount’s controlling company — had scrapped merger talks between the media and entertainment giant and David Ellison’s Skydance Media.  Paramount’s stock was down 0.6% after hours on Tuesday, after finishing the regular trading session down 7.9%. The drop during the regular session made the stock one of the biggest laggards on the S&P 500 Index Shares of Paramount are down 25.4% year to date.

So what now?  Well, like most of the Bachelorettes, golden or otherwise, Shari’s quest for something more substantial continues.  And, sure enough, there are already new suitors who are hoping for a rose.  Including yet another nepobaby, Seagram’s heir Edgar Bronfman, Junior and a longtime personal friend, producer Steven Paul.  Both have some measure of experience in the business–but not necessarily with best-in-class track records.  Bronfman fils, known to his friends as “Eger”, ran Universal for six years at the end of the 20th century, having some small victories with sequels to JURASSIC PARK and THE MUMMY but ultimately, as Wikipedia reminds, le(a)d(ing) Seagram into a controversial all-stock acquisition by French conglomerate Vivendi in 2000. Bronfman Jr., became chief of the new company, Vivendi Universal, but the Seagram company effectively lost control of its entertainment businesses. Meanwhile, the beverage division—the core of Seagram was acquired by Pernod Ricard and Diageo and divided between the two firms. Seagram, for all intents and purposes, ceased to exist.

And Paul? Per IMDB,  He is the Chairman, Founder and CEO of Crystal Sky Pictures1He is also the CEO of SP Media Group (SPMG), Crystal Sky, SP Releasing, SP Distribution, Echo Bridge, and Artist’s Only Management2He is known for his work on the Baby Geniuses franchise, Ghost in the Shell, and the Ghost Rider movies.   Respectfully, there’s not a Top Gun or even a Jack Ryan series in that portfolio.

So perhaps they’re more age-appropriate suitors that Ellison is, but I can’t say if I were among her minions I’d have much confidence that they would be a significant improvement over who’s been running Paramount lately–or eminently qualified to navigate the exceptionally choppy waters they find themselves in.

As Goldsmith and D’Alessando reminded: Any plan, and any potential buyer of Paramount, will have to contend with a company whose mix of assets presents in many ways a challenged hand for navigating the shifting winds of media,” said analyst Robert Fishman of MoffettNathanson.

Which may be why the gameplan they offered is the flavor of the moment may in the end be the most viable, if not the optimal, course of action:

(S)he also may not do anything immediately, choosing to pay down debt, raise the company’s value and try to sell it again at a later date and take a shot on the new CEO troika of Brian Robbins, George Cheeks and Chris McCarthy. For in them is the confidence that they’ll do what former Paramount Global CEO Bob Bakish didn’t do: sell off assets such as BET and Showtime.

At the annual shareholders meeting last week, Robbins, Cheeks and McCarthy laid out a path to divest non-core assets, unlock the value of content and possibly find a joint venture partner for streaming service Paramount+. As unorthodox as three chiefs seem, they are seasoned executives and Redstone seems to wants to keep them in place for now.

Which, I suppose, kinda leaves the likes of Bronfman and Paul out in the cold as well.  Meaning Shari’s still on the market.  Toonkel offered up this tidbit for those who may want in on this to potentially get on her good side:
She told people close to her that she wanted to spend more time fighting antisemitism in the wake of the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel.
That’s a sweet story, too.  Right up there with Vassos’.
And if those Golden Bachelorette producers are looking for reasons for people to hate-watch, they may also want to pay close attention to this opinion that Barrionuevo threw out:
She’s a lunatic,” said one individual close to the deal in the heat of the moment, reflecting the anger that rippled through the teams that had worked for months toward a close. 
Personally, I’d choose in real life to swipe left.  Whether or not more investors fall in line with my thoughts could be the most intriguing storyline of all.
Until next time…

 

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