For Whom Shell Tolls

jeff shell
Jeff Shell has built his career around sports broadcasting and shrewd rights dealmaking. Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images
John Ourand
July 8, 2024

At long last, David Ellison’s Skydance and Gerry Cardinale’s RedBird Capital were able to sweeten their offer for Shari Redstone’s long-suffering National Amusements holding company enough to get her to yes, consummating an $8 billion takeover-via-merger of Paramount Global. Among other things, the deal puts to rest a number of patently grimmer scenarios for the employees of the Redstone heirloom, particularly on the CBS Sports side. A stalking horse offer financed by Sony and Apollo posed all kinds of potential antitrust and sell-off headaches, for instance. And the status quo, which had the company under the management of three interim C.E.O.s known on Wall Street as the Pep Boys, was a source of great uncertainty. As I reported recently, executives at the NFL had been sweating the long-term financial health of their longtime broadcast partner. 

Anyway, the national nightmare is over. And, in fact, my reporting suggests that executives at CBS Sports should be thrilled with the outcome—particularly the long-anticipated appointment of Jeff Shell as president of the new Paramount Global. Yes, yes, Shell, the C.E.O. of NBCU from 2019 to 2023, was defenestrated after reports emerged of an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate. After lying low, he re-emerged as an operating partner at RedBird, alongside Jeff Zucker, who may yet be enlisted in this fascinating corporate rehabilitation effort. Now, the unanimous opinion of the executives I speak to at CBS Sports is that C.E.O. David Berson and his division couldn’t have scripted a better outcome. Shell, and the entire Skydance team, appear to be big supporters of the CBS Sports team. On an analyst call this morning, Shell praised its deals with the NFL, Big Ten, and NCAA, among others, allaying fears and gesturing toward his strategy.