A big pickup for Sony Pics: Fox's Bersch

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Steven Bersch has taken the reins as president of Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Group. He replaces Peter Schlessel, who last week was named head of worldwide affairs at the Culver City-based studio.

Bersch comes from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, where he was COO. In his new position, he will report to Schlessel and oversee SPWAG's program of acquiring, co-financing, producing and co-producing pictures for diverse Sony Pictures distribution platforms, including TV, film, home entertainment and digital.

In recent years, the arm picked up "We Own the Night" at Cannes, which was distributed in the U.S. by Columbia Pictures; "Southland Tales," distributed by Samuel Goldwyn Films; and the Japanese animated mystery "Paprika," through Sony Pictures Classics.

"You're not confined by any divisional constraints or business model," Bersch said Thursday of the SPWAG operation. "The goal is to adapt and utilize various distribution mediums for each film."

Bersch started his career as an entertainment attorney and has held executive positions at Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. and MGM/UA. He spent 14 years at Fox holding senior executive positions that included president of Fox Interactive and executive vp business affairs. As COO at Fox Home Entertainment, Bersch ran its acquisition program and its DVD Premiere production unit, which he launched in 2004.

"By placing an exceptionally talented and respected entertainment executive like Steve at the helm of this business, SPWAG's strong performance and ongoing success are ensured," Schlessel said.

Bersch, whose first day at SPWAG was Thursday, said he has no immediate plans to change the way the division operates.

"The agenda is to just continue what's working, obviously, and adapt to the changing realities of the business," he said. "Industries are always changing. The nice thing about the business is it's always flexible and adaptable."
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