Sudden Departure

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NEW YORK CITY: In an industry that rarely keeps big secrets, media executives on both coasts were startled by the abrupt ouster of Frank Biondi as chief executive of Viacom late Wednesday. Biondi, a former HBO executive long viewed as the heir apparent to billionaire Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone, was widely respected for his management of an empire that included Paramount Pictures, Simon & Schuster Books, Blockbuster Entertainment and MTV. In a terse statement issued after the financial markets concluded trading for the day, Viacom said that Redstone, 72, had taken over Biondi's responsibilities and would be forming an executive committee of seven Viacom executives to assist him in running the company. While no explanation was given for Biondi's departure, Redstone referred in the Viacom statement to the "entrepreneurial, aggressive, responsive, hands-on management style" needed at the company, concluding: "The changes I am announcing today will create just that kind of management." Industry analysts could only offer speculation that Paramount's recent poor performance may have played a role in the ouster. Search "Viacom."