LOS ANGELES (AP) – Talent agent and producer Brad Grey will take over the Paramount Motion Picture Group, succeeding Sherry Lansing, who led the studio for 12 years.

Grey will become chairman and chief executive officer of Paramount on or before March 1, it was announced Thursday by Viacom Inc., the media conglomerate that owns Paramount. Details on his compensation package were not disclosed.

In addition to running creative aspects of the studio, Grey will assume the business duties that had been assigned to Jonathan Dolgen, who left shortly after Tom Freston and Les Moonves were made co-presidents of Viacom in June.

Grey, 47, has run the talent agency Brillstein-Grey Entertainment and also produced films and TV shows, most notably the HBO series “The Sopranos.”

Grey is an unusual choice because he has not worked inside the Hollywood system. But Viacom noted that his relationships with actors, directors and other talent would help reinvigorate the studio, which has languished over the past few years.

“He is exactly what we need – a dealmaker, a successful entrepreneur, and a man with a great outreach to the creative community,” Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone said.

Paramount has struggled at the box office under a regime that took few creative and financial risks. Redstone vowed to increase the studio’s budget.

The studio has had some recent success with “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” and “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.”

Paramount is scheduled to release Steven Spielberg’s “War of the Worlds” starring Tom Cruise later this year.

Lansing, 60, will stay with Paramount to help with the transition. She announced in November that she would step down at the end of 2005 when her contract expires.

It was not clear from Thursday’s announcement how Grey has extricated himself from his ownership of his talent agency or his share of the production company called Plan B, which is co-owned by Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt.

Over the past few years, Grey has produced such films as “Scary Movie” and “The Wedding Singer.”

He is also executive producer of the Johnny Depp version of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” a Plan B project slated to be released by Warner Bros. this year.

AP-ES-01-06-05 1617EST

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