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Sony creates new exec unit

Six weeks after a major corporate restructuring on the film side and two weeks after a major shake-up in the TV division of Sony Pictures Entertainment, the Culver City-based company announced yet another sea change in its corner offices Tuesday. President Alan J. Levine announced the formation of a worldwide corporate development group.

Ken Lemberger, formerly vice chairman of TriStar Pictures and Mike Medavoy’s second in command there, will oversee the new unit. As an executive vice president of Sony Pictures Entertainment and the corporate development group topper, his mission will be to coordinate both domestic and international resources, develop new business and engage in long-range planning for Sony’s motion picture, television, theatrical exhibition and studio facilities groups.

According to sources at the studio, the group’s mandate will be to pursue new business opportunities. For example, the corporate development group would consider whether Sony should buy a major sports franchise, acquire a publishing house or reform the manner in which certain feature films are financed.

Executives at Sony were quick to dismiss speculation that the announcement was in any way related to turnover in the company’s operating divisions. “The timing is an unfortunate coincidence,” said Lemberger, “but the fact is, I’ve been discussing the creation of the division with Alan Levine for some time now.”

Lemberger will report to Levine. The corporate development group will include an international team headed by Nicholas Bingham, who will oversee the international development activities and will assume the title of executive vice president, corporate development-Europe. He will continue to work out of the company’s London office, where he will be assisted byPatrice Van De Walle, who has been named senior veep, corporate development-Europe. Bingham will remain president of Columbia TriStar Intl. TV.

Corporate development in Asia will be the fiefdom of Hong Kong-based William Pfeiffer, who will remain senior VP, Asia, for Columbia TV. Helios Alvarez has been named senior vice president, corporate development-Latin America. He was general manager for the region at Columbia TriStar Intl. TV.

Rounding out the team from SPE’s Culver City world headquarters will be Sue Jameson, who will be senior vice president of strategic planning for SPE; Paul Smith, who will be named senior vice president of corporate development for SPE; and Ken Munekata, who has been promoted to vice president of corporate development for SPE. The entire group will report to Lemberger.

Lemberger will continue as chairman of Sony Pictures Imageworks. Since joining SPE in 1979, Lemberger has worn many hats, including production exec and contract negotiator.

“One of the reasons I was appropriate,” said Lemberger, “is that over my 15 years, I’ve spent a great deal of my time in matters beyond motion pictures. I was chief legal negotiator on many of our major deals. I’ve worked with homevideo, foreign and in production at TriStar … Hopefully, the new group can make the company more proactive in seeking out new business that fits within our overall corporate purpose.”

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