Sir Howard Stringer, 71, says he will step down at Sony’s annual shareholder meeting and made the announcement in a speech at the Japan Society in New York. Kazuo Hirai, 52 and former head of the PlayStation unit, succeeded him as CEO almost a year ago. Stringer was put in place in June 2005 and under his watch the once great Sony has fallen behind Samsung in manufacturing and Apple in creativity. Now Hirai is trying to save the company by cutting costs and selling assets. Whether Sony’s Culver City entertainment studio will be one of those assets shed now remains a subject of much speculation especially with Stringer’s departure finalized for June. Hirai has denied speculation that Sony could sell the entertainment divisions. Stringer said he would pursue “new opportunities I’ve been presented with lately”. Stringer is also chairman of the American Film Institute. Stringer came from Sony’s entertainment arm and pointed to the company’s movie, TV and music businesses as “models of stable and innovative leadership and consistently profitable”.
Between the roller-coaster ride of Thursday’s 85th Academy Award Nominations and Critics Choice Awards and this weekend’s Golden Globes mania, Friday’s annual AFI Awards Luncheon was not only a breath of fresh air in this busy season. It was a much needed event to put everything in perspective and show not only the impressive group of creative heavyweights from the year’s best movies and TV programs, but also a strong turnout of studio power players, exactly what this should all be about. It’s a celebration of the year’s best work, not another televised awards show that simply tries to divide everything into groups of winners and losers, bad jokes and nervous nominees. “Our wish for today is that this room become a respite from the noise, for us to carry you away as you carry us away. Think of it as when the lights go down in a movie theatre or a story beginning on television. We want you to feel good about your work and feel good about the people you work with because together you have created something beautiful, and in the weeks to come and the years that will pass nothing can take that away from you,” said AFI President and CEO Bob Gazzale in his opening remarks that set just the right tone. With tables for each of AFI’s 10 movies of the year (Argo, Beasts Of The Southern Wild, The Dark Knight Rises, Django Unchained, …
Sure, every Oscar weekend there are the Friday night agency parties — Ari Emanuel’s WME fete, and Jim Berkus” UTA party for the Coen Brothers, and Bryan Lourd’s CAA bash (where the valet parkers screwed up the parking situation so badly that the Triple-A crowd had up to a 2-hour wait for their cars). But the place to really see the Big Media moguls, past and present, and their assorted pilot fish on parade is Barry Diller’s Saturday afternoon lawn luncheon ostensibly in honor of Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter. This year drew a particularly good 300+ crowd to the tent on Diller’s Beverly Hills estate for Hollywood’s major meet’n'greet. Guests included in no particular order: Sir Howard Stringer (eating the repast of veggie chili and fried chicken and poached salmon with Rupert Murdoch), David Geffen, Ron Meyer (who took his new NBCUniversal boss Steve Burke), Sandy Gallin, Bryan Lourd, Jeff Berg, Oprah Winfrey (who dined with Michael Eisner and Larry Gordon and her BFF Gayle King), Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Arianna Huffington, Eva Longoria, Valentino, Wendy Stark, Joan Collins, Terry Semel, George Hamilton, Toby Emmerich, Penny Marshall, Lorraine Bracco, Balthazar Getty, Alan Grubman, David and Victoria Beckham, Les Moonves, Anderson Cooper, California Governor Jerry Brown, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Tom Freston, Bob Daly, Jonathan Dolgen, Brett Ratner, Dani Janssen, Shirley MacLaine, Alana Hamilton Stewart, Donna Karan, Oswald Botang, Kevin McCormick, A. Scott Berg, Cheryl Tiegs.
It was a surprise when Sony named a non-Japanese and a non-engineer, Howard Stringer, as Chairman/CEO in 2005. Then Stringer took on the president’s job in 2009 after ousting Ryoji Chubachi. Now Bloomberg is reporting on private talk that the global corporation “plans to look for a new president who could eventually succeed Stringer, people familiar with the matter said… Installing a president would give Stringer, who turns 69 in February, a deputy to lighten his work and travel load and offer the designee a chance to prove their mettle as Sony sets its long-term plans. Kazuo Hirai [49, who spearheads Sony's games business] and Hiroshi Yoshioka [who's in charge of TVs, cameras, and chips], two of the company’s so-called Four Musketeers, may be considered, one of the people said.” Stringer said last year he wanted to remain on the job until Sony completes its business plan ending in March 2013.
For a long time Sony’s Sir Howard Stringer was depressed over the Blu-ray vs HD-DVD format war. Then he was happy when he won. Now he might frown again. Because Wal-Mart is scaling back its sale of low-cost DVDs and predictions are that consumers will buy fewer DVDs of TV shows. So Wall Street forecasts that DVD spending may decline 4%-5% this year after dropping 2% last year. According to Pali Capital analyst Richard Greenfield, ”Unfortunately the key Hollywood studios waited (or rather fought) far too long to unify behind one next generation DVD format (Blu-ray has now won) leading to even greater catalog DVD declines in 2008.”