Corporate governance watchdogs probably won’t like the fact that CEO Joseph Ripp will also be chairman of the 10-member board after Time Warner spins off its publishing unit. After all, the directors are supposed to hold the CEO accountable. But at least the Time Inc board doesn’t have any apparent shrinking violets or corporate novices. Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes says the group has “a wealth of experience in publishing, electronic media, advertising, consumer-facing businesses, and technology that is vital for Time Inc’s future.” In addition to Ripp, the board will consist of: Interpublic Group former CEO David Bell, National Geographic Society former CEO John Fahey, Gartner Inc former CEO Manuel Fernandez, Tribune Co former CEO Dennis FitzSimons, Kraft Foods former co-CEO Betsy Holden, USA Networks founder Kay Koplovitz, former IBM SVP J. Randall MacDonald, former Cravath, Swaine & Moore partner Ronald Rolfe, and former Sony CEO Howard Stringer.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Thomas Bezucha Helms ‘Priceless’ Remake; BBC Adds Ex-Sony Chairman Howard Stringer; More
Thomas Bezucha Directing English-Language Remake Of ‘Priceless’
The Family Stone and Monte Carlo director Thomas Bezucha will helm the English-language remake of French romantic comedy Priceless for European film group uMedia. The original movie starred Audrey Tautou and Gad Emaleh and sold 2.15M tickets in France in 2006. Umedia’s remake has been greenlighted for production in early summer on the French Riviera. The story follows Alec, a shy and hardworking waiter at a grand hotel who is mistaken for a millionaire and seduced by a captivating American girl with expensive tastes. When Lauren discovers his true identity and limited resources, she takes off, but Alec pursues her along the Cote-d’Azur. When he ends up stranded and broke, he is saved by a wealthy woman-of-a-certain-age and finds himself kept in the same manner as Lauren, who coaches him on how the play the game as her feelings for him deepen. Pierre Salvadori directed the original which was sold internationally by Wild Bunch.
BBC Adds Howard Stringer Amid Corporate Changes
The BBC has announced a series of changes to transform how the corporation is run. At the same time, it has added former Sony chairman Howard Stringer as a non-executive director for a term of three years beginning January 1. The moves come a year after myriad crises began to plague the broadcaster including the Jimmy Savile child sex abuse scandal and the editorial missteps at flagship news program Newsnight. Among the changes are a 60% reduction in the number of pan-corporation management boards “so that senior managers will be able to make faster decisions and concentrate on running their teams and departments.” Decision making by multiple committees will shift to much greater personal responsibility, ensuring “there are no blurred lines,” the broadcaster said. “As a creative organization, individuals need to be able to take creative risks without fear, managers will not be penalized for brave, well-made decisions that were taken for the right reasons.” Speaking about the changes, director general, Tony Hall, said, “This is an important first step in making the BBC simpler and better run.”
It was completely appropriate that AFI‘s 41st Life Achievement Award honoree Mel Brooks made his entrance at the Dolby Theatre to the Steven Sondheim song, “Comedy Tonight”. It set the tone immediately for a very different evening than any that had come before at this annual event. Look at the list of the 40 previous AFI honorees, and there’s not a single solely comedic filmmaker or actor in the whole bunch. Yes, there are some — like Billy Wilder, Mike Nichols, Shirley MacLaine and Tom Hanks — who have made a few classic comedies but no one whose whole screen career is built on laughs. The AFI finally corrected that glaring omission Thursday night.
“Ladies and gentlemen, tonight the American Film Institute honors the art — and the farts — of American film,” said AFI Board Of Trustees Chair Sir Howard Stringer in welcoming the star-studded crowd. “When I telephoned Mel to tell him the AFI had voted him in as the 2013 recipient, he responded instantly, ‘What took you so long?’ Fair enough. Comedy is routinely short-changed at many awards ceremonies , particularly the Oscars. It is often said comedy is harder than drama because funny is like trying to catch lightning in a bottle. That makes Mel, without question, Hollywood’s principal lightning conductor.”
Michael Lynton will be announced as Howard Stringer’s Sony Corp Of America successor next week. “The people who know in Culver City are very happy — and very relieved,” a source tells me about Sony Pictures Entertainment where Lynton since January 2004 has been chairman alongside Amy Pascal. Sony’s principal U.S. businesses include Sony Electronics Inc., Sony Computer Entertainment America LLC, Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc., and Sony Music Entertainment. Sony Corporation of America, based in New York, NY, is the U.S. subsidiary of Sony Corporation, headquartered in Tokyo. The Japan brass would like to base Lynton full-time in NYC but he prefers to stay in Los Angeles because of his family. So that’s still a question mark. Lynton’s promotion has been expected for some time and even more so since Comcast bought NBCUniversal because the Sony exec is close professionally and personally to Brian Roberts and Steve Burke, something the hyper-ambitious Lynton let it be known throughout Hollywood and beyond. My insiders say this job promotion is because Lynton has become a favorite of Kazuo Hirai, who takes over as Sony Corp President/CEO at the start of April. Stringer will retain the chairman title. My insider says, “Hirai who’s very Americanized really likes Michael. He’s his kind of guy because Michael is all business and not flashy.” Lynton already oversees Sony’s movie and TV studio, distribution deals, global production operations, and such. He previously was CEO of AOL Europe and before that headed Pearson’s Penguin publishing company as well as served a brief stint running Disney’s Hollywood Pictures.
But Lynton has a herculean task in front of him. Here’s why: Sony’s U.S. shares have lost more than 36% of their value over the last 12 months. The company is plagued by a feeling that it’s too slow moving and out of touch with consumers, technology, and business. One of the key aspects of the Sony Corp Of America job is ensuring that the corporation’s proprietary technology doesn’t lose out to hardware advancements and content exclusivity. Sony always will be haunted by its Betamax loss to VHS which started the company on a long downward spiral. Since then, the Sony Corp Of America top exec’s marching orders have been to ensure that Sony doesn’t get left out in the cold when the hardware manufacturers and content providers agreed on an industry standard whether for CD, DVD, Blu-ray, 3D or other formats. Problem is, this has meant that even when Sony has had proprietary technology, the company has shared it rather than tried to go it alone again. The result is that the Sony Corp Of America job requires an executive capable of subtle diplomacy and industry respect, and Lynton fits that description perfectly. (On the other hand, he is not shy about his political activism for President Obama and is along with his wife one of the reelection campaign’s top bundlers. And he has used his current gig as a soapbox, most controversially scolding movie theaters for making Americans fat by selling unhealthy concession snacks.)
Combatting current trends won’t be easy. Apple, not Sony, controls tablets and music players. Amazon, not Sony, dominates e-readers. And Microsoft, not Sony, is No. 1 in game consoles while Sony angered
This morning the AFI Board Of Trustees meeting was held from 9-11 AM at the Peninsula Hotel. Among those attending were Sir Howard Stringer, Bob Daly, Amy Pascal, Christopher Dodd, Thomas Tull, Chris Silbermann, Rich Ross, and more. As a surprise for the board chairman Sir Howard Stringer, the Sony Corp topper who celebrated his 70th birthday on February 19th, was a phone call from his pal Sean Connery. Phoning from the Bahamas, Connery toasted Sr Howard on his 70th, elaborated on their friendship (Connery is Scottish and Stringer is Welsh), and noted “Howard, my friend, at our age it’s not the wheels that go, it’s the axel!” Connery also talked about the movie biz. “Without appreciating the art form, the movies would all be Mickey Mouse. I am sure Rich Ross would understand that better than anyone.”
Now we know why Sony wanted to announce yesterday that Kazuo Hirai will replace Howard Stringer as CEO in April. U.S. shares are down about 5.4% in pre-market trading after the electronics and entertainment giant released a fiscal 3Q report filled with tales of woe — including in its filmed entertainment and music businesses. In the last three months of 2011, the company generated a net loss of $2B, down from a profit in the period last year, on revenues of $23.4B, down 17.4%. What’s more, Sony lowered its forecast for the fiscal year ending in March: It now expects to wind up with a $1.2B operating profit, which is 10.2% lower than it predicted in November. Sony’s biggest problem is the declining sales of LCD television sets in Japan, Europe, and North America. Revenues for Consumer Products and Services fell 24.4% to $12.8B in the quarter. Revenues grew for filmed entertainment, by 7.7% to $2.1B, but due to high marketing costs and the disappointing performance of Arthur Christmas the unit’s operating profit fell 84.8% to $9M. The Music operation also struggled with sales down 11.7% to $1.6B, and a 21.7% decrease in operating income to $196M. Bestselling titles included Adele’s 21 and music from the TV show Glee.
Sony Corp has announced the ascension of Kazuo Hirai to the role of president and CEO, with current chief Howard Stringer to become chairman of the board of directors. The moves were expected as Sony last year expanded Hirai’s duties to oversee all of its all-important consumer products and services business. The Sony press release is below:
TOKYO, Japan – Sony Corporation (“Sony”) today announced that Kazuo Hirai has been appointed as President and Chief Executive Officer, effective April 1, 2012. Sir Howard Stringer, currently Chairman, CEO and President, will become Chairman of the Board of Directors in June, 2012.
Mr. Stringer recommended to the Sony Board of Directors that Mr. Hirai, currently Executive Deputy President, be his successor as President and CEO. Mr. Stringer will continue as Chairman of Sony Corporation until his ascension to the Board Chairmanship, which will become effective upon Board approval following the annual meeting of shareholders in June, when the current Chairman, Yotaro Kobayashi, will retire. Mr. Hirai is also expected to be appointed to the Board at the June shareholders meeting.
Sony Corp. is pulling out of its LCD manufacturing partnership with Samsung, the company announced today. Samsung will pay $939 million for Sony’s share. The S-LCD joint venture was set up in 2004. The move is expected to save Sony about $640 million a year and will allow it to buy LCD panels from other makers at competitive prices. Sony originally invested to ensure a steady supply of LCD panels for its TVs during a periond of shortages. Samsung has surpassed Sony to as the No. 1 seller of TVs. LG is No. 2, Sony is No. 3. Sony’s TV manufacturing operation has lost money for seven straight years. Sony’s movie and TV studio business remains in the black, but the company overall has forecast its fourth straight annual loss. Analysts believe shedding the LCD manufacturing stake is a good move that should allow Sony CEO Howard Stringer to concentrate on turning around Sony’s TV manufacturing business. Stringer previously announced $8.4 billion in acquisitions to bolster profits on mobile phones. Sony still faces a steep uphill battle with its tablet computers designed to compete with Apple’s iPad.
It’s a lousy morning for Sony. The company has locked 93,000 PlayStation Network user accounts — including 35,000 in the U.S. — following yet another round of cyberattacks on Friday and Monday, Bloomberg reports. The company says that hackers gained data elsewhere on the Web to access the Sony customers’ accounts – but they didn’t get anything serious like credit card data. Still, some users may be concerned considering that the system had to be temporarily closed in April following similar attacks. Chairman Howard Stringer apologized for that breech. Meanwhile, Sony is offering to provide free repairs for nearly 1.6M Bravia TV sets sold since 2007. The company has discovered that a defective part involved in the LCD screen backlights could cause them to melt.
Howard Stringer: Sony Will Overtake The iPad With Content
A rival has revolutionized the mobile computer industry and Sony hasn’t had a device catch on big with consumers in years. But worried? Not Sony, not if you believe CEO Howard Stringer. “Yes, yes, Apple makes an iPad, but does it make a movie?” he said at a Berlin electronics show today. “We will prove that it’s not who makes the tablet first who counts but who makes it better.” Stringer unveiled its two tablet models, priced at $599 and $499, about the same price as an Apple 2. But analysts and technology reviewers’ first impresssions were largely negative. Also today, Sony announced in Tokyo that it will merge its liquid-crystal display manufacturing efforts with Toshiba and Hitachi and use $2.6B of government-backed funds to fend off competitors in Korea and Taiwan. The merged entity will be the world’s largest maker of the LCD panels used in smartphones and tablet PCs.
‘The Kennedys’ Takes Acting Prizes At Canada’s Geminis
It may have struggled to find a buyer in the U.S. and drawn fire from both ends of the political spectrum, but the controversial miniseries The Kennedys was a winner tonight in Toronto at the Gemini Awards, Canada’s top TV honors. Barry Pepper won for lead actor for his role as Bobby Kennedy and Diana Hardcastle won supporting actress for her role as matriarch Rose Kennedy. The Pillars of the Earth was named the top TV movie or mini. The Jason Priestly comedy Call Me Fitz won for direction (Scott Smith), supporting actor (Ernie Grunwald), supporting actress (Rachel Blanchard) and writing (Pat Bullard).
Hulu Rolls Out Subscription Video Service In Japan
Streaming entertainment site Hulu is on the auction block, but that isn’t stopping it from making its first international foray. The company said today that Japanese audiences are “passionate about premium video content” and that the country is a “major producer of world-class TV and feature films.” Japan’s extensive broadband coverage and
It hasn’t been a good year for Sony, which has been reeling from the Japanese earthquake and tsunami and hacker attacks on its PlayStation Network that the company said will cost it $2 billion in operating profit this fiscal year. Now the problems have reached Howard Stringer’s office: The Sony chairman received 15% less compensation for the 12 months ending March 31, the company said in government filings today, putting his salary and bonuses at $4.3 million (his second in command and likely successor, Kazuo Hirai, also got a pay cut). Sony’s stock has fallen 29% since the earthquake March 11; the company has reported three consecutive annual losses. According to Bloomberg, Stringer has overseen the loss of more than 37% of Sony’s market value over the six years ended March 31 since he was made chairman and CEO.
Granted Japan’s earthquake and tsunami were not Sony chief Howard Stringer’s fault. But everything else that’s going very wrong at that company is. (Bet he wishes he were back at CBS …) Stringer today felt the need to write a very belated letter of apology (below) to PlayStation Network users for the recent PSN data breach and shutdown since April 20. As the fiasco enters its third week, Congress, the FBI and Sony-hired private computer forensic experts are now trying to find the hackers. And there are lawyers … lots lawyers. Several class-action lawsuits have been filed since confidential data for as many as 100 million users may have been exposed and possibly taken. On Sunday, Sony also took down the multiplayer online games on its Sony Online Entertainment network because it appeared compromised. (PSN provides games for downloading, while SOE hosts online games like EverQuest.) It’s supposed to make gamers feel safer that Sony’s currently in the process of overhauling its entire security system. And Stringer promises PSN will be back online in the “coming days.” But, seriously, this sucks:
I know this has been a frustrating time for all of you.