While Sony Corp president and CEO Kazou Hirai is at the beginning stages of finding a replacement for outgoing Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton, we’re told that Japanese management is looking for a manager who has strong experience in both film and television and also with international markets. One of the new names being bandied about right now is Peter Rice, the chairman and CEO of the Fox Networks Group who has both film and television experience. If that ends up being the case, the new Sony could look very much like the 20th Century Fox of old. It already has two former Fox executives in the upper echelon: Tom Rothman and Sanford Panitch.
Tribune Media president and CEO Peter Ligouri left his company and is known to have been advising the Sony board behind the scenes on the next move.
Another name being talked about is Thomas Staggs, who as COO was Disney’s heir apparent to Bob Iger but left the company last summer after the board failed to give him assurances of his ascension. He had been Iger’s No. 2 and is a well-liked name among Wall Streeters but lacks the hands-on entertainment experience in film and television. However, he is a brilliant strategist and he was key in both the Pixar and Marvel purchase for Disney — moves that has boosted the company’s bottom line.
Another name that has been bandied about is … wait for it … Steve Mosko, the former head of Sony Television when the TV division was credited contributing over 60% of the entertainment unit’s operating income. Would Mosko return since it was Lynton that he clashed with? Unlikely and wishful thinking, since Tokyo had a hand in his ouster, but it would be a welcome homecoming as he is well liked at the studio and around town. One scenario has Mosko in television and Studio 8’s Jeff Robinov — who had a very strong and successful run while at Warner Bros — stepping up to run film side and then shuttering his Sony-based Studio 8, with both executives reporting to Hirai.
Yet another name in the mix is former Fox honcho Jim Gianopolus, whose name seems to be in the ring for every executive opening under the sun. And also former Fox exec Bill Mechanic (Hacksaw Ridge) fills the “bill” so to speak as he has experience in both film, television, international and ancillaries as well.
Whoever comes in, we’re told, will be given the courtesy by the Japanese to be able to assemble their own team. If it is Rice, that is probably good news for Rothman. We know that Lynton hired Rothman with the strong support of Hirai and right now he is still backing him.
If it is someone who wants to compile their own team, those insiders again point to Robinov as he is already based at Sony.
There have been rumors about Sony looking at a possible merger (perhaps with Lionsgate), but that was dismissed by insiders who said, “There will be no sale or merger. They need to right the ship first and foremost and that could take two to three years.” Hence the need to get the right executive in. Sony took a $962 million non-cash impairment write-down on the entertainment unit for the third quarter last week, which sent its stock down 4% immediately afterwards; it bounced back quickly.
Sony had no comment. Stay tuned.