Paramount has fired Amy Powell as Head of Television following an internal investigation of inappropriate comments she made that are being widely reported as having been racist. Powell was with Paramount for 14 years and in a high-profile and powerful role navigating the future of Paramount television including creating and financing shows for Netflix and Amazon among others.
The termination was effective immediately. Powell’s net worth is estimated at around $15 million.
What the comments were specifically were not disclosed and likely won’t be officially, but in a statement Paramount said it values “diversity” and what she said was counter to the company’s values.
Late Thursday, word began trickling out that her comments were made during a discussion of a possible ‘First Wives Club’ redux with a black female cast.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. After an Investigation & on Advice of its Legal and Human Resources Teams Advice, Paramount Fired Powell ‘Effective Immediately.’
Paramount CEO Jim Gianopulos issued an internal memo, published by the Hollywood Reporter and others, that said “ …multiple individuals came to us to raise concerns around comments made by Amy Powell in a professional setting, which they believed were inconsistent with our company’s values.”
“Having spent the past several days conducting a thorough investigation into this matter and speaking to those who were present, our Human Resources and Legal teams came to the same conclusion, and we have made the decision to terminate Amy’s employment, effective immediately.”
“While it is incredibly difficult to part ways with a valued member of our community, it is imperative that we uphold our values and ensure that all employees feel safe and included in the workplace.”
“Importantly, I want to take this opportunity to remind everyone of the type of company and culture we’re committed to building at Paramount. It’s one of inclusion, honesty and accountability – where diversity is critical to ensuring that all ideas, backgrounds and perspectives are embraced and respected.”
“We will continue this conversation in smaller groups and on a companywide scale in the coming months and, in the meantime, I want us to take stock of where we are and explore what more we can do to foster a safe, supportive and inclusive workplace. Through direct engagement and an open dialogue, my hope is that we can undertake this progress together, in an environment where each and every one of our employees feels heard and valued.”
Paramount was founded in 1912 by Adolph Zucker.
2. Powell Was a Highly Regarded Powerhouse in the TV & Digital Entertainment Industry
Powell, 42, has received numerous industry awards, including: Variety’s 2012 Women’s Impact List, induction into the 2011 American Advertising Federation Marketing Hall of Fame, Key Art Awards, Webby Awards, OMMA Awards, IAB MIXX Awards and more. Powell has also been profiled as a ‘Next Generation’ executive by The Hollywood Reporter and ‘Media Maven’ by Ad Age.
Powell earned a bachelor’s degree from from Emory University and earned an MBA from the Anderson School at UCLA.
Gianopulos said, “We will begin immediately looking for Amy’s replacement ..” but said there would be operational and creative support for the existing “incredibly talented Paramount TV team, which is very well-placed to continue the incredible growth of this division.”
3. On Her Watch, Paramount Developed Myriad Hit TV Shows for Platforms From Amazon to Netflix
Paramount Television with Powell at the helm developed and financed “a wide range of cutting-edge and entertaining television content across all media platforms for distribution worldwide,” according to the Paramount website.
The slate of shows includes Tom Clancy’s “Jack Ryan,” “Galaxy Quest” and “Snow Crash” for Amazon. The popular and controversial “13 Reasons Why” for Netflix. Also for Netflix “Manic,” and “The Haunting of Hill House.”
Other titles include “The Alienist” for TNT, “Catch-22” for Hulu and a number of ‘hot wives’ shows also for Hulu. She was also working with George Clooney on show based on Joseph Heller’s “Catch 22.” Clooney is directing, producing and acting in the 6-episode show.
In dismissing her, Gianopulos said “Amy has made lasting contributions to Paramount in her 14 years with the company, including building a world-class team at Paramount TV.”
4. Powell Was Tapped for the Top Paramount TV Spot in 2013 But Had Been a Paramount Honcho Far Before
At the time, Viacom Inc.’s Paramount Pictures named Powell to the high level post in an effort to “ramp up its efforts to develop programming for smaller screens.”
Powell was already head of Paramount digital entertainment and Insurge Pictures. Then Paramount Chief Executive Brad Grey described her as a “highly talented, innovative and creative executive” and praised her “skill and experience working across all platforms, at engaging audiences …”
Powell told The Wrap at he time her goal was to set up a shop where “talent can come and pitch us any idea for any screen. A director or writer can come to us and have an idea that could be for a digital episodic content, for a prime time series. We’ll create and distribute programming for audiences across every screen — digital, cable, online, traditional broadcast and maybe even microbudget theatrical. We’re an incubator for all of that.”
Paramount TV provided content for networks and distributors including Amazon, Comedy Central, Fox, Hulu, HBO, MTV, Netflix, Nickelodeon and USA.
5. Before Paramount, Powell Was a Sony Executive
According to her LinkedIn page, Powell joined Paramount in 2004 from an interactive marketing position at Sony Pictures. In 2006, she was promoted to Senior Vice President of Interactive Marketing. She has created digital marketing campaigns for such films as the “Paranormal Activity” And “Star Trek” Franchises, “Iron Man,” “Cloverfield,” “Jackass,” “Transformers,” “Tropic Thunder” And “Team America.”
Powell is married to writer Doug Chermack of ‘Awkward Family Photos” fame. The couple have two children.