After a lengthy battle with cancer, Deborah Barak, a longtime CBS business affairs officer who assisted in guiding the Eye network through a turbulent period in television, passed away on Saturday. She was 65.
Barak was well-known for being a shrewd negotiator and astute dealmaker. The initial licensing deal for “Survivor” in 2000 was among the numerous ground-breaking agreements she led for the network. In the early years of the streaming video boom, she assisted the business in reviving the “Star Trek” franchise through a ground-breaking global arrangement with Netflix. She worked at CBS for 35 years, beginning in 1985 as the West Coast’s broadcast counsel.
“Debby was a mentor and dear friend to so many of us at CBS,” said David Stapf, president of CBS Studios. “She was everyone turned to for counsel and guidance, professionally and personally. You always left her office feeling a little bit smarter and emotionally stronger. No one was more universally loved, admired, and respected at CBS and across our business.”
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Stapf remembered her as “that rare person who was equal parts intimidating, smart as hell, and incredibly empathetic, which made her a unicorn. She was my partner, best friend, and someone who made me a better person.”
Another long-serving CBS executive, Amy Reisenbach, who was recently elevated to the position of entertainment president, gave Barak credit for assisting in her ascent to the top programming position.
“Debby drove a hard bargain but was always fair and compassionate. She was also a mentor to dozens at CBS, including me. I can honestly tell you I would not be in this job without her teaching, guidance, and the unwavering confidence she had in me,” Reisenbach wrote in a note to CBS staffers. “She was pure class, intelligence, and goodness. The world is a little less everything today.”
One more old coworker remembered Barak as “wise, tough, and fair-minded to all.” Barak collaborated with Nina Tassler, the longstanding head of CBS Entertainment, for more than two decades.
“Her business savvy and sophisticated negotiating skills matched her humanity and decency. Working together for over 20 years was one of the most rewarding experiences of my lifetime,” Tassler said. “Her sophisticated intellect and a deep appreciation for artists distinguished Debby as world-class; few possessed her unique talents. Unassuming and press-shy, she was loved by her staff and creative executives throughout the company and the industry. Mentor and friend to so many during her stellar career, Debby was foundational to the network’s success. Above all, her moral compass never wavered, treating everyone with grace and dignity.”
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Before working for CBS, Barak was an associate at O’Melveny & Myers after earning degrees from UCLA and Loyola Law School. In 2010, she was elevated to executive vice president of business operations for the CBS network. She was promoted to president of business operations at CBS Entertainment five years later. In 2020, Barak stepped down from CBS.
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