Rob Friedman is steppingdown as chief operating officer and vice chairman of Paramount Motion Picture Groupto pursue other interests.

The senior executive hadbeen planning the move for some time, but was asked several months ago bystudio chairman Brad Grey to stay on to oversee the release campaign for WarOf The Worlds.

Friedman, who joined thestudio as vice chairman of the Paramount Motion Picture Group in 1997 and roseto chief operating officer five years later, will stay on through the releaseof Hustle & Flow and BadNews Bears, and thereafter willserve as a consultant on the remaining 2005 slate.

During his tenure Friedmanoversaw all domestic and international marketing, publicity and distributionoperations at Paramount, as well as Paramount Home Entertainment and ParamountClassics.

Paramount sources said itremained unclear whether studio and Viacom top brass would appoint a successoror implement some kind of corporate restructure.

Friedman said today [12]that while he would not rule out a job in the wider entertainment world shoulda suitable offer come along, his future career was "more likely to befilm-oriented."

While he said the success of Titanic - still the highest grossing picture in history -and his key role in setting up Paramount Classics were among his Paramounthighlights, Friedman stressed that the quality of staff and talent relationsunderpinned his most rewarding experiences at the studio.

"Clearly to step down afterthe extraordinary worldwide success of War Of The Worlds is something that makes me very happy," Friedmantold Screendaily.

"I feel that I've puttogether an extraordinary team that will remain after my departure and I leavethe company in really good shape, which makes me very proud."

"Rob has made manyvaluable contributions to Paramount's history," Grey added in a statement."When he told me several months ago that he wanted to move on, I asked him tostay on and open War Of The Worlds,he agreed, created a fantastic campaign, and the movie was Paramount's bestopening ever.

"We thank him for his manyyears of dedication and hard work here at the studio and wish him the verybest."

Besides Titanic, Friedman's marketing and distribution credits atParamount include Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, What Women Want, and Mission: Impossible 2.

He started out in themailroom at Warner Bros and worked his way up to president of worldwidemarketing over the course of a 25-year career at that studio. His Warner Broscampaign credits include the Batmanand Lethal Weapon series, ChariotsOf Fire, Unforgiven and DrivingMiss Daisy.