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Sony Corporate Adds Miller To Its Culture

In an unexpected corporate shift, Turner Pictures prexy Dennis Miller will move from Century City to Culver City to become an exec veepee for Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Also, SPE exec veep Paul Michael Schaeffer will step down and become chief corporate officer for former SPE chairman Peter Guber’s production company, which is set up at Sony.

Miller will start at Sony within the next month and will report to president and chief operating officer Alan Levine.

What is still unclear is who will report to Miller and how the company’s structure will be reconfigured.

As when CBS’ Jeff Sagansky was named exec VP at Sony last fall, no one formally reported to him either. That situation soon changed, as reports have surfaced in the last few months that Sagansky was taking a key leadership role in all aspects of the company, including the feature division.

Levine maintained the reporting framework will not change. Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Cos. chairman Mark Canton and president Fred Bernstein will continue to report to Levine, as will Sony TV Entertainment president Mel Harris.

Sony officials kept mum on what Miller’s duties will be, saying he would “work closely with Levine and other members of SPE’s senior management team on a diverse spectrum of corporate issues.”

Levine added Miller would spend the first six months learning the ropes. “The design of what he’s going to do will evolve over the next couple of months,” he said. “But it’s definitely a corporate job, not a creative job.”

Miller oversaw business affairs at Turner, where he had been prez since 1992. He was also responsible for all original entertainment production at Turner and handled many of cabler TNT’s stabs at original TV movies, such as “Gettysburg” and “Heart of Darkness” and its entertainment and sports programming. He joined Turner in 1990 as exec VP of TNT.

Though his title will be the same as Schaeffer’s was, Miller will have different duties. Schaeffer currently oversees Sony’s corporate services group, as well as managing all the studio facilities. Those responsibilities haven’t yet been reassigned.

One insider said Miller will be working more closely with Sony’s TV side, headed by Harris, as well as Sony Wonder (the family entertainment division) and the video department.

He apparently will have little to do with the feature side, apart from helping to develop some “strategic partnerships” with co-financers, a pet project of Sagansky’s.

Another source said Miller was being brought in to ease Levine’s corporate load, which has increased in the last six months.

“Alan has really been burdened on the corporate side,” said the source. “The need for some executive manpower has been evident for a couple of months.”

Industry reaction to creation of the new post at Sony was mixed. Some high-ranking industry sources said the move muddies the waters at Sony.

But other execs who have worked with Miller praised his frankness and his ability to cut through the bureaucracy to get things done.

The studio said the deal with Miller came very quickly. “I originated it,” said Levine. “I’ve known Dennis for more than five years and have been watching his career. He told me two days ago he might be available. There were no talks prior to this.”

But sources said Miller met with Sagansky several months ago to discuss the possibility of coming to work for Sony.

At Guber’s company, Schaeffer will essentially be the corporate point man for interaction with Sony. The still officially unnamed company, which reportedly will be involved with film, music and new technologies, has been using the monicker Mandalay Prods.

Anita M. Busch contributed to this report.

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