Sony digital guru Landau to exit


LAS VEGAS -- After 17 years at the studio and nearly a decade as president of its digital division, Yair Landau is preparing to leave Sony Pictures Entertainment in April.

Landau said he is planning a new games and animation venture to develop and produce content for use across all media. He will continue working with Sony Pictures as an executive producer on Sony Pictures Animation's "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs," which is slated for a 2009 release.

Landau said he in negotiations on aspects of his new venture both in Los Angeles and elsewhere. "There is a lot of exciting creative and technology coming from other parts of the world," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "My life has been in global development.

"Online entertainment from all formats -- (be it) animation, live-action games on the PS3 -- is going to be relevant to what I do," he added.

Sony said a replacement for Landau would be named soon.

Sony Pictures Imageworks blossomed under Landau and president Tim Sarnoff. In 2003, its first animated short, "The Chubb Chubbs!" won an Academy Award for best animated short film. Two years later, Imageworks' work on "Spider-Man 2" won an Oscar for achievement in visual effects.

Landau established Sony Pictures Animation in 2002. Along with Penney Finkelman Cox and Sandra Rabins, they assembled a team of filmmakers that have produced 2006's "Open Season" and 2007's Oscar-nominated "Surf's Up."

Landau oversaw the growth of Sony Online Entertainment with online games such as Everquest and Untold Legends. He helped pioneer some of the studio's earliest ventures on the Internet and internationally, including Screenblast, Movie┬Člink and, in conjunction with Sony Pictures Television International, a television channel in India.

Landau served as executive vp corporate development and vice chairman of Sony Pictures and was named president of Sony Pictures Digital in 1999.

Regarding his decision, Landau referenced his entrepreneurial role at Sony. "Those organizations are stable and well managed and positioned for succession," he said. "It's more a function of my work here being done and the opportunity to do on the outside what I managed to do at Sony historically."

He added, "I am especially grateful to Howard Stringer, John Calley, Amy Pascal, Michael Lynton and the many talented colleagues with whom I've shared these past 17 years."

"He helped bring us into the digital age with the Sony Pictures Digital division, which has served as our very own new-media incubator," Sony Pictures chairman and CEO Lynton said. "His strategic vision, technological savvy and business acumen helped us keep pace with the rapid changes affecting our industry."

Added co-chairman Pascal: "From his role in helping to bring the 'Spider-Man' franchise to our studio to his leadership of our digital division, Yair has left an indelible mark on our company and this industry."

"His influence on Sony's decisionmaking in the digital dawn has been profound and enduring," said Stringer, chairman and CEO of Sony Corp. "We will all benefit from his instincts and insights for many years to come."

Landau expects to make further announcements about his new venture after he exits Sony. He said he is also accepting offers to join the boards of several businesses and planning to make investments in media, entertainment and technology companies.