Deborah Barak dies: CBS business executive was 65

Deborah Barak, the longtime CBS business executive who helped lead the Eye network through a transitional era of television, died Saturday after a battle with cancer. She was 65 years old.

Barak was widely respected throughout the industry as a sharp negotiator and shrewd dealmaker. Among the many groundbreaking deals she managed for the network was the original licensing deal for “Survivor” in 2000. She also helped the company revive the “Star Trek” franchise with an innovative global deal with Netflix in the early years of the streaming boom. . She spent 35 years with CBS, becoming a West Coast television programming consultant in 1985.

“Debby was a mentor and dear friend to many of us at CBS,” said David Stapf, president of CBS Studios. “She was the person everyone turned to for advice and guidance, both professionally and personally. You always left her office feeling a little smarter and emotionally stronger. There was no one who was more universally loved, respected and respected at CBS and throughout our business.”

Stapf remembered her as “that rare person who was equal parts terrifying, smart as hell, and incredibly empathetic, which made her a unicorn. She was my partner, my best friend and someone who made me a better person.”

Amy Reisenbach, another longtime CBS executive who was recently promoted to president of entertainment, credited Barak with bringing her to the top programming position.

“Debby was a hard bargain, but she was always fair and compassionate. She also mentored dozens at CBS, including myself. I can honestly tell you that I would not be in this job without her care, guidance and the unwavering trust she had in me,” Reisenbach wrote in a message to CBS staff. “She was pure class, intelligence and kindness. The world today is a little less everything.

Another longtime colleague remembered Barak as someone who was “wise, tough and fair to everyone.” Nina Tassler, longtime president of CBS Entertainment, worked with Barak for more than two decades.

“Her business acumen and sophisticated negotiation skills were matched by her humanity and decency. Working together for more than 20 years has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life,” said Tassler. “Her sophisticated intellect coupled with a deep respect for artists set Debby apart as world class; few possessed her myriad unique talents. Low-key and press-shy, she was loved by her staff and creative executives throughout the company and the industry in general. A mentor and friend to many throughout her stellar career, Debby was the foundation of the network’s success. Above all, her moral compass never wavered, treating everyone with grace and dignity.”

After graduating from UCLA and Loyola Law School, Barak worked at O’Melveny & Myers as an associate before joining CBS. She was promoted to executive vice president of business operations for CBS Network in 2010. Five years later, she was promoted to president of business operations for CBS Entertainment. Barak retired from CBS in 2020.

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