Harris' return may have affected decision

Apparently, it did not prove to be a Wynne/win situation: Sony Pictures Entertainment announced Friday that Bob Wynne, its co-prexy and chief operating officer, had elected not to renew his contract.

In a statement released by the studio, Wynne explained that he’d decided not to renew in order to “capitalize on exciting opportunities that exist in today’s dynamic marketplace, as entertainment and digital technology converge.”

Privately, though, several Sony insiders speculated that the Sept. 9 return of Sony TV vet Mel Harris to serve as co-prexy and chief operating officer of SPE augured Wynne’s exit, as Harris co-opted too many of Wynne’s responsibilities.

Insiders also maintain that Wynne, known for his steely reserve and often gruff negotiating style, had less than cordial interactions with several key video, TV and syndication execs over renewal of their contracts and other deal-making issues, and that his ouster had come from Sony Corp. of America suites in New York.

Indeed, one reason for the departure of Harris four years ago was a dispute with Wynne over the renewal of Harris’ contract, insiders said.

Also under Wynne, key TV execs Jon Feltheimer and Eric Tannenbaum exited the company; video topper Ben Feingold had been operating without a contract for some time.

Wynne denies that there was any friction with those execs, or that their departures had anything to do with his own. He called Feltheimer “terribly talented, and a friend,” adding, “I reject all of that unequivocally and totally.”

Wynne joined the company in November 1995 as exec VP, having served as legal counsel to the company since the late 1970s. He was promoted to senior exec VP in January 1997 and became a member of Calley’s three-man top management team in November of that year. He was upped again to co-prexy and COO in May 1998.

In a statement, Calley said, “Bob has been my friend and partner since I joined SPE, and I wish I could persuade him to stay. But given his extraordinary talent, I can well understand why the timing is right for Bob to take advantage of the many opportunities that await an executive of Bob’s brilliance, drive and integrity.”

Calls to Calley for further comment were not returned.

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