Meet David Ellison: Paramount’s New Leader

Meet David Ellison: Paramount’s New Leader
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David Ellison’s Hollywood journey has been filled with high-energy, adrenaline-filled blockbusters filled with suspense, stunts and unexpected twists.

But on Sunday, he achieved his most significant milestone by negotiating a merger with Paramount after months of discussions with the company and its largest shareholder, Shari Redstone. If the deal goes through, he will oversee a vast media empire that includes CBS, MTV and the Paramount movie studio.

Although Ellison, 41, has been among Hollywood’s elite for over a decade, he’s only just now entering the spotlight. Here’s a rundown of his career.

Who is David Ellison and what is Skydance?

A look at Ellison’s Internet Movie Database page reveals a modest acting career with minor roles in films such as “Flyboys” and “The Chumscrubber” (where he played “Student No. 1”). His rise in Hollywood began when he moved into producing.

After dropping out of the University of Southern California and quitting acting, Ellison focused on producing. With considerable family influence (his father is Oracle founder Larry Ellison), he financed big-budget films like “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” and “Star Trek Into Darkness.”

Ellison’s company, Skydance Media, has seen a significant increase in its value, surpassing $4 billion after investments from private equity firms RedBird Capital Partners and KKR. As CEO of Skydance, Ellison co-produced hits like “Top Gun: Maverick” and “GI Joe: Retaliation” with Paramount, giving him access to the company’s executives and its most beloved franchises.

Before producing “Top Gun: Maverick,” Ellison was a daredevil himself. He told The New York Times in 2022 that he began flying planes as a teenager and performed in stunt air shows until his 20s.

What is the role of the Ellison family in Hollywood?

Larry Ellison, who made a cameo appearance in “Iron Man 2,” backed Skydance’s bid for Paramount, leveraging his wealth and technological expertise.

David Ellison’s sister, Megan Ellison, is also a Hollywood powerhouse, having founded Annapurna in 2011, producing films such as “Her” and “American Hustle.” David’s wife, Sandra Lynn, is a country singer-songwriter known for songs such as “I Think of You” and “Somebody Kissed Me at a Bar.” Neither Megan nor Sandra Lynn are involved in Skydance’s executive team.

What are David Ellison’s plans for Paramount?

While Ellison has not publicly detailed his plans for Paramount, he discussed them with a special committee of the company’s board months ago. He proposed partnering with another major entertainment company on a streaming joint venture in the U.S., continuing a trend toward bundling, according to people familiar with his pitch.

Paramount’s controlling shareholder Shari Redstone is excited about the Skydance deal, according to insiders. She believes Ellison’s management team will bring technological and animation expertise to the combined company.

Ellison also proposed boosting Paramount’s streaming capabilities with improved recommendation systems and more efficient deals with data providers, according to a person familiar with his presentation. Skydance has stakes in Paramount’s most successful shows and movies, including “Mission: Impossible” and “Top Gun,” so the merger of the companies could provide more flexibility in managing franchises.

A key figure in the Skydance talks is Jeff Shell, former CEO of NBCUniversal. Shell, who joined Skydance backer RedBird Capital last year, will become Paramount’s chairman.

Does Skydance collaborate with other Hollywood studios?

Despite its strong ties to Paramount, Skydance has also produced films for other studios. It has a multi-year deal to produce animated films for Netflix and has partnered with Amazon on projects such as “The Tomorrow War” and “Without Remorse.”

Skydance has recently ventured into sports media. In 2021, Skydance Sports launched and struck a deal with the National Football League in 2022 to create a production company to expand the reach of its sports programming. Last year, it produced “Air,” a film about the creation of Nike’s Air Jordan brand.

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