TedHowells ascended to the chief financial officer job at Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc., as the Culver City company continues the shuffle in its corner offices.

Howells replaces Abbott Brown, who will continue to consult for the company, but is leaving to take a job with a merchant banking and advisory firm.

Howells, most recently Sony Pictures’ controller, joined the company’s predecessor, Columbia Pictures Entertainment Inc., in October 1988. He will assume Brown’s job but none of the duties left behind by Jonathan Dolgen, who ankled the studio last month to run Viacom Inc.’s new Hollywood operations.

In one of the most thankless jobs in Hollywood, Howells will have to keep a rein on film budgets that always seem to escalate, and help develop financial ways to capitalize on the possible synergies that the studio’s ownership by electronics giant Sony Corp. offers.

“I think we have some of the same kinds of problems other film companies have ,” Howells said, pointing specifically to controlling costs. “But I don’t have a magic answer to that. We’ll just keep working on it.”

Sony has had some recent big-budget disappointments, but Howells said there is no financial mandate to shy away from expensive scripts or projects.

“If you’re in the oil and gas business and you don’t strike oil, you don’t stop digging,” he said.

As controller, Howells managed SPE’s financial reporting, budgeting, forecasting and accounting. He will oversee those duties, as well as handling the company’s corporate audit,worldwide cash management, financial relationships , foreign exchange, risk management and information systems.

“His history with this company gives him a unique and comprehensive perspective of our financial operations and will be invaluable in maintaining the continuity and fiscal integrity of our global enterprise,” Alan J. Levine, SPE’s prexy and chief operating officer, said in a statement.

Before joining Columbia, Howells was veepee and controller of Avon Products Inc. Before that, he was corporate controller at RCA Corp.

Brown leaves Sony after a 3 1/2-year run with the company. He joined Columbia in September 1990 after 25 years with Price Waterhouse.

Brown will consult with SPE on a number of film financing deals and strategic planning projects that are currently in the works. And he will advise Sony Corp. of America on some financial functions that are centralized in New York. He said he might continue to do some future business with the company.

Brown declined to name the firm he was moving to, saying an announcement would come this week. But he said the job is “with a group that’s well-funded and assisting them with some investing.” The group’s investments are not exclusive to the entertainment industry.

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