AFTER TWO weeks of intense negotiations, NBC Entertainment Chairman Brandon Tartikoff has reached an agreement to head Paramount Pictures in a deal set to be announced tomorrow.
Tartikoff, who has been responsible for NBC's prime-time ratings supremacy over the past six years, confirmed to colleagues yesterday that he would be leaving the network after his contract expires in June. He was expected to sign his agreement with Paramount today.
Details of the agreement were not publicly disclosed, though one source said: "I'm sure it's a fat deal financially." Tartikoff reportedly sought and was granted assurances that he would be allowed to make day-to-day decisions at the studio without interference from executives at Paramount Communications Inc.'s headquarters in New York.
People close to the discussions said that top executives on the Paramount lot learned of Tartikoff's appointment late last week.
Tartikoff, who works out of NBC's Burbank offices, could not be reached for comment on the reported deal. A Paramount spokesman also declined comment, saying that the studio does not respond to speculation.
Paramount has been searching for a new studio chief since last month, when Frank G. Mancuso left the post. Mancuso has charged, in a $45-million lawsuit against Paramount, that he was abruptly fired two days after Paramount Communications Chairman Martin S. Davis named producer Stanley Jaffe to the new position of president and chief operating officer, above Mancuso. Paramount has denied the accusation.
Mancuso's departure followed a string of disappointing releases at Paramount, including "The Two Jakes," "Days of Thunder" and "The Godfather, Part III."
Industry sources said that Tartikoff, 42, has agreed to stay on at NBC "as a consultant" at least through the fashioning of a new fall prime-time schedule in May. Sources said that is being done to avoid a conflict of interest since NBC is now choosing shows for its new fall schedule from all the major studios.
Tartikoff is credited, along with former NBC Chairman Grant Tinker, with reviving the network's prime-time schedule in the early 1980s. For the past six years, NBC has been the No. 1 network in prime time, although in recent seasons its margin of victory has significantly diminished.
Last summer, after 10 years as chief architect of NBC's program schedule, Tartikoff was elevated to the position of chairman of NBC Entertainment, and his chief deputy, Warren Littlefield, was named president.
NBC's prime-time ratings plunged 13 percent for the recently concluded season, after having already suffered another 9 percent drop the year before.