Endeavor partner John Lesherhas been hired to head up Paramount Classics in a move that Paramount isexpected to officially announce this week.

Lesher has been one of several contenders linked with the job in recent monthsas the tenure of former co-chiefs David Dinerstein and Ruth Vitale lookedincreasingly shaky.

The appointment of the high powered agent appeared to be set in stone yesterdayafter it emerged that he was telling clients about the move.

A Paramount spokesperson declined to comment on the development, howeversources said the final deal points were being thrashed out and the studio wasexpected to confirm within days.

Speculation as to who would head up the specialty division has been rife inHollywood for some time following a lengthy period of lacklustre performance.

It intensified last month after studio chairman Brad Grey told Dinerstein andVitale that their contracts would not be renewed in February 2006.

Grey has wasted little time in ringing the changes at the Viacom-owned studiosince he succeeded Sherry Lansing.

The former talent manager is on a mission to reinvigorate Paramount as the studio seeks to fuse commercial and critical success andrevisit its halcyon days of the 1970s, when it produced such epochal releasesas The Godfather, Chinatown and The Conversation.

Lesher's rock solid talent relations offer an opportunity to the specialty division. However the major talking point last night was, given his lack of film production experience, how he would muster the business nous to run the company.

Lesher joined Endeavor as partner in 2002 and has a client list that includes Martin Scorsese, the red-hot South American filmmaker trio of Fernando Meirelles, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Walter Salles, as well as Paul Thomas Anderson, David O Russell and John C Reilly.

Prior to Endeavor he was a partner and co-head of the motion picture literature division at UTA, which he joined in 1988.

"The success of a specialty division is never down to one person; it takes several people and a viable business model," one insider said. "He has the relations but he's never run a company before. Everybody wants to see how this is going to play out."