PR Crisis Specialist Charles Sipkins Named Sony Pictures Communications Exec

Charles Sipkins

He arrives from Sard Verbinnen & Co., a firm famous for helping to rehabilitate reputations of companies that have been sullied by the press

Sony Pictures Entertainment has named as its new head of communications Charles Sipkins, a crisis-management specialist who has experience dealing with Dan Loeb, who owns 7 percent of Sony and has advocated the conglomerate spinoff its TV and film assets.

Sipkins will join Sony on Sept. 9 from Sard Verbinnen & Co., a public relations firm active in mergers and acquisitions and famous for helping to rehabilitate reputations of companies and executives that have been sullied by the press.

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"Charles Sipkins is joining as the senior communications executive at Sony Pictures Entertainment," Sony said in a statement e-mailed to The Hollywood Reporter. "He will report directly to Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal, overseeing all aspects of the company's corporate communications and the existing team at SPE."

Sipkins joins Sony at a critical time, given it has endured box-office disappointments such as Elysium, After Earth and White House Down. Loeb and his Third Point investment vehicle have used those titles to bolster their case that Sony's entertainment business is "poorly managed" and should be separated from the rest of the company.

Sipkins is familiar with Loeb's tactics; he was an adviser and spokesman for Yahoo when Third Point insisted the Internet giant get rid of CEO Scott Thompson because of inaccuracies on his résumé.

At Sard Verbinnen, Sipkins was a managing director who headed the Los Angeles office. He's stepping into a role largely vacated when Jim Kennedy went to New York two years ago to join the Sony corporate PR team.

Until his bio was taken down Wednesday, the Sard Verbinnen website said Sipkins "has advised clients on communications related to earnings, restructurings, activists and proxy fights, in addition to class-action, antitrust, environmental and employment litigation. He has also counseled clients during SEC, DOJ and multi-state attorneys' general investigations as well as product recalls and physical disasters."

Insiders tell THR that executive vp global communications Ann Boyd will report to Sipkins and that the roles of communications executives Steve Elzer, a senior vp for the motion picture group, and Paula Askanas, an executive vp for Sony Pictures Television, will not change.