Deborah Barak, CBS Business Affairs Executive, Passes Away at Age 65

Deborah Barak Dead: CBS Business Affairs Executive Was 65

Deborah Barak, a veteran CBS business affairs executive who helped guide the network during a transitional era of television, passed away on Saturday after battling cancer. She was 65. Barak was renowned for her sharp negotiation skills and expertise in dealmaking. She was responsible for the original licensing agreement for “Survivor” in 2000, and also the innovative global agreement with Netflix for the revival of the “Star Trek” franchise in the early streaming content boom. Barak was with CBS for 35 years, joining in 1985 as broadcast counsel for the West Coast.

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

Amy Reisenbach, another long-serving CBS executive recently promoted to entertainment president, credited Barak with helping her reach the top programming post. “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 tutelage, 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.”

Nina Tassler, another longtime CBS Entertainment president, described Barak as “wise, tough, and fair minded to all.” Tassler worked with Barak for over two decades and said, “Her business savvy and sophisticated negotiating skills were matched by her humanity and decency. Working together for over 20 years was one of the most rewarding experiences of my lifetime. Her sophisticated intellect along with a deep appreciation for artists distinguished Debby as world class; few possessed her myriad unique talents. Unassuming and press-shy, she was loved by her staff and creative executives throughout the company and the industry at large. 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.”

Barak graduated from UCLA and Loyola Law School before working at O’Melveny & Myers as an associate. She was promoted to executive VP of business operations for the CBS network in 2010 and five years later, she was promoted to president of business operations for CBS Entertainment. Barak retired from CBS in 2020.