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Former Fox Networks Group chairman Tony Vinciquerra has been named CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment in a move that is designed to right the studio. He starts on June 1.
In his new position, Vinciquerra will oversee film and TV for Sony. A town hall on the Sony studio lot is being planned for Friday.
Vinciquerra most recently was a senior adviser for technology, media and telecom at TPG Capital. He’s a board member at STX Entertainment, Pandora and Univision and he has been an executive at CBS and Hearst. He left Fox in early 2011.
Vinciquerra replaces longtime Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton, who left the Japanese conglomerate’s entertainment business on Feb. 2 to become chairman of Snap Inc., home of Snapchat, where he was an early investor. Since then, Sony Corp. CEO Kazuo Hirai has been overseeing the underperforming division, including keeping an office on the studio lot in Culver City.
“I am thrilled to be joining SPE at such an exciting and dynamic time for the studio, and for the industry as a whole,” Vinciquerra said Thursday in a statement. “Everything about how we produce, distribute and consume content is changing, and I see tremendous opportunities working with the enormously talented teams at SPE, Sony Corp and the other Sony companies. I want to thank Kaz for giving me this opportunity and I look forward to hitting the ground running.”
Job No. 1, of course, will be to turn around the ailing movie studio, home to a number of underachieving titles that resulted in massive $962 million write-down at the end of last year.
Hollywood will keep a close eye on any body language that would signal what Sony’s plan for the studio is given recurring chatter about a possible sale or sale of a stake. While Hirai has said he has no intention of putting the studio or any of its assets on the block, a revived Sony could prove an attractive acquisition target to a company like CBS Corp. or a lure for foreign investors like the Chinese.
“Based on our interactions with management, we believe Sony wants to retain ownership of the studio, IP and content,” Atul Goyal, analyst at Jefferies in Singapore, tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Could they look at spinning off part of it or at working with a partner? It’s possible if they got the right price. But I believe the probability of that is quite low.” He added: “The important thing for Sony right now is to announce the new management.”
Daniel Ernst, analyst at Welch Capital Partners, has long been in favor of Sony stock market listing a minority stake in the studio. “Having a publicly listed entity allows them to a) raise a little cash and b) demonstrate the value of the asset,” he said earlier in the year. “Sony did this 10 years ago for its finance/insurance arm, and in media Malone & Co. have done it dozens of times, mostly with success.”
The first job at hand will be to turn around the performance of the studio, and industry people say Vinciquerra has key skills for the challenge at hand.
“He’s intelligent, he’s thoughtful, he’s strategic, he’s a good manager. Tony’s great,” says Fox Networks Group CEO Peter Rice, who worked with Vinciquerra when serving as chairman of entertainment for Fox Broadcasting.
Others who have worked with Vinciquerra say he is a savvy businessman and operations guy, versus a creative executive. What he may lack in film biz experience, he makes up for with his broad TV expertise, in both broadcast and cable. And he has a reputation for being tech-savvy.
Before hiring Vinciquerra, insiders say Hirai took meetings with a bevy of prospective candidates, including former Disney COO Tom Staggs, former Tribune Media CEO Peter Liguori and former Hulu CEO Jason Kilar.
On the TV side, Sony has been humming along nicely with hits like Jeopardy!, Wheel of Fortune, Better Call Saul and The Blacklist, but Vinciquerra will be inheriting a movie studio in flux.
Before his departure, Lynton initiated a turnaround effort that included cost-cutting and layoffs, while still dealing with the fallout from the devastating hack in late December 2014.
In February 2015, Lynton hired Tom Rothman, who was then running TriStar Productions, to succeed Amy Pascal as chairman of the motion picture group. Sources indicate Vinciquerra, who knows Rothman from their days at Fox, doesn’t intend to make any immediate executive changes.
Rothman’s 2017 slate includes July tentpole Spider-Man: Homecoming — Sony worked closely with Marvel Studios on the reboot — and December event pic Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.
Insiders also say Sony has been combing through the 800 Marvel characters that it controls — Sinister Six, Black Cat, Silver Sable, etc. — desperate for a few more film franchises while it also is seeking more synergies with its PlayStation, an example being an upcoming Shawn Levy film based on the Uncharted series of video games.
Kim Masters, Gavin Blair and Georg Szalai contributed to this report.
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