SHORTLY AFTER FIRING Viacom Chief Executive Tom Freston on Monday, Sumner Redstone placed a call to Judy McGrath, the head of MTV Networks and a career-long associate of Mr. Freston.
The Viacom chairman didn’t call to kick Ms. McGrath out, but to make sure she stayed.
Mr. Redstone’s abrupt expulsion of Mr. Freston, who helped found MTV, is a traumatic event for the close-knit culture of the network, and the appeasement of Ms. McGrath is a top priority for these Viacom executives. Not only does she head Viacom’s most important businesses, she’s also one of the last remaining senior executives who joined MTV in its early days. The quirky, iconoclastic ways of MTV have made it a hospitable place for writers, producers and stars. Viacom’s new CEO, Philippe Dauman, needs Ms. McGrath and other veterans to give the unit a jolt without blowing up these foundations.
“It’s critical to empower Judy,” says a former top executive at MTV Networks. “You can’t lose mom and dad in the same year or the place will fall apart.”