Sony exec is sitting on top of world

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Peter Schlessel has been appointed to the newly created position of president of worldwide affairs at Sony Pictures Entertainment, the studio's Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal said Wednesday.

Schlessel, whose 20 years of experience ranges from attorney to creative executive to studio president, is the only Hollywood studio exec with such a title or role.

For the past two years, Schlessel has been president of Sony's Worldwide Acquisitions Group arm, which acquires and co-finances projects for Sony distribution platforms including television, direct-to-video/DVD and its Sony Pictures Classics division. He will continue to oversee the division in his new role, but a new president will be brought in, according to the studio.

With the Worldwide Acquisitions Group, Schlessel's finger has been on the pulse of the business worldwide.

A source close to Schlessel suggested that his replacement might be the head of another major studio's home video division, but Sony execs declined comment on their plans for an outside search.

As worldwide affairs president, Schlessel will report to Lynton and Pascal and take on the additional responsibility of overseeing key corporatewide initiatives and identifying strategic opportunities for the company, according to the studio. Schlessel said it was hard to describe his new position, but he'll be working closely with Pascal and Lynton in managing the studio, relieving them of some division responsibilities and whatever the "issue du jour" may be.

"I don't know what it's going to be," he said of the position. "It's going to evolve."

Lynton said the promotion is important for the studio's coordinated, strategic planning across all lines of business.

"He has become a key player in many aspects of our overall business, and in this new position he will be able to help Amy and me manage and grow the company in a more efficient and profitable way," Lynton said.

Pascal added that Schlessel's "invaluable range of business and creative experiences and his personal skills will be an asset throughout the company."

Schlessel was responsible for bringing into the company James Gray's "We Own the Night" from the Festival de Cannes in May for $11.5 million and picking up international rights for the Showtime miniseries "The Tudors," as well as the Japanese manga "Paprika" for Sony Pictures Classics. Schlessel also recently launched Stage 6 Films, a label that will acquire and produce films for theatrical or straight-to-DVD release.

"Even as an acquisitions person or production chief, you tend to worry about specific issues related to a specific product," Schlessel said. "Now I can look at the company from a global perspective and look at how to make the company more efficient."

Schlessel joined the company working in business and legal affairs for RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video and served in key senior positions at Sony Pictures over the years, including playing a pivotal role in the formation of Screen Gems in 1996 with Clint Culpepper.

"Clint and I thought of Screen Gems together, and he is responsible for the success," he said. "We really ramped up the acquisitions program in 1994, buying 125 movies a year, and that's continued to this day."

Schlessel said a "highlight" of his career with the studio was working with Pascal and others in establishing the "Spider-Man" franchise for the studio, including bringing aboard director Sam Raimi and star Tobey Maguire.
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