After days of open speculation, Brad Grey has been confirmed asthe new chairman and chief executive officer of Paramount Motion Picture Groupand will start work in his new role on or before Mar 1.

Grey's appointment follows an extensive job search put into placeafter the current incumbent Sherry Lansing announced last November that shewould leave her position by the end of this year. Veteran executives like BillMechanic and studio vice chairman Donald De Line were reportedly among thecandidates, but Freston's choice of Grey indicates his willingness to bring anew energy to the studio.

The arrival of Grey, the veteran talent manager and chairman ofBrillstein-Grey Entertainment who has earned numerous Emmy Award nominationsand produced such television hits as The Sopranos, is expected to lead to a shake-up atthe studio.

Paramount has underperformedfor several years and parent company Viacom is keen to see a return toprofitable operation. Of the pictures released last year only Lemony Snicket's A Series OfUnfortunate Events is on target to pass $100m at the boxoffice and Grey will be expected to bring his talent relations, flair fordeal-making and entrepreneurial spirit to bear.

Grey will oversee all motion picture operations at Paramount andwill report directly to Viacom co-president and co-chief operating officer TomFreston. In a broadened role he will have ultimate authority on filmdevelopment and production as well as worldwide business operations.

"Brad's integrity and values are matched by his exceptional vastentertainment experience and common sense," Freston said. "He's anentrepreneur, a manager, a dealmaker, a hit maker and has that combination ofcreative business acumen. He's the ideal leader for the challenges of motionpicture business today and tomorrow.

"I want to thank Sherry Lansing for her great leadershipthese past 12 years," Freston continued. "She has had a truly legendary run andleaves behind a proud legacy. I must say that the last year has been veryexciting as Sherry and her team have infused the studio with a new spirit andhave brought many great new people to the studio."

"This is a great company, with a great motion picture legacyand a great mandate for the future," Grey said. "The motion pictures made byParamount and the other great Hollywood studios entertain the entire world.

"To be able to share that experience and responsibility, and thecreative process behind it, is an opportunity few get. I am grateful for it. Ilook forward to working with Tom, along with Sumner [Redstone, Viacom chairmanand chief executive officer], and Les [Moonves, the chairman of CBS], the Paramount team, and the manytalented artists in our community."

"I couldn't be more pleased to welcome Brad Grey to theViacom family," Redstone added. "He is exactly what we need: a dealmaker, asuccessful entrepreneur, and a man with great outreach to the creativecommunity. He has an enviable track record in the entertainment industry and heis a fabulous addition to our team."

It remains to be seen how Greywill exit his Brillstein-Grey Entertainment, whose holdings includeBrillstein-Grey Management, Brad Grey Television and Plan B, the filmproduction company he runs in partnership with Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston.

Grey's lack of film-making experience makes him an unexpectedchoice. Through Plan B, Grey recently produced Charlie And TheChocolate Factory, whichWarner Bros will release this summer, and he is also a producer on thriller TheDeparted, the Englishlanguage remake of Hong Kong's Infernal Affairs which Martin Scorsese will direct.

Paramount's 2005 slate includes The War Of The Worlds,Elizabethtown, The Longest Yard and Sahara.