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Sony shuffles deck

Lemberger new co-prez; Feingold, Blake take larger roles

Sony Pictures Entertainment is attempting to streamline its top executive reporting structure with a raft of promotions that company toppers hope will help mobilize a more disciplined production program.

One byproduct of this restructuring will be the imminent departure of Bob Levin, worldwide marketing prexy. In the revamp, Levin would be reporting to Jeff Blake, whose responsibilities are being widened.

The studio confirmed the following promotions Wednesday afternoon:

  • Blake, chief of worldwide distribution who has headed that division since 1992, will now expand his purview to include responsibility for worldwide marketing of motion pictures at Sony’s Columbia Pictures, niche arm Screen Gems and Revolution Studios, the new venture formed by producer Joe Roth.

  • Col TriStar Motion Picture Group prexy Kenneth Lemberger will ascend to co-prexy, Sony Pictures Entertainment, opposite prexy and chief operating officer Mel Harris.

  • Ben Feingold, who as prexy of the Col TriStar Home Video Group is responsible for acquiring films for the studio and for homevideo and DVD, will assume a larger role: He will take on many of Lemberger’s old duties in business and operations for the Motion Picture Group. Feingold has been head of homevideo since 1994.

The series of senior-level appointments is designed “to broaden and strengthen the management base for overall company operations,” Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman John Calley said in a statement Wednesday.

Calley told Daily Variety that the structure allows the company to “be fully transitioned to the next generation” and that “the ultimate goal is a structure that will endure” after Calley retires at the end of his contract in a year’s time.

Reporting to Harris

Previously, the heads of marketing, distribution, production and business operations functioned independently and reported separately to Calley.

Under the new structure, the three key divisions headed by Blake, Feingold and Columbia Pictures chairman Amy Pascal will report to Harris, with assistance from Lemberger — with all three divisions overseen by Calley.

In the statement, Calley said he believed the timing of the moves is right “to solidify and clarify some of our operating structure so we can carry our momentum forward longer-term.”

That structure, however, may be evanescent: It offers the first, albeit evolving, view of a company without SPE chairman Calley, but his retirement in 12 months could trigger still another wave of management changes.

The marketing reshuffle is also seen as a way to rejuvenate Sony’s domestic movie grosses, which have slipped in recent years to seventh place, while at the same time rewarding Blake’s stewardship of the international arena, where Sony is now in second place for the year.

The company seems poised to enjoy robust B.O. from upcoming fourth-quarter releases like “Charlie’s Angels” “Vertical Limit,” “The Sixth Day” and “Finding Forrester.”

“I’ve got a year to go,” Calley said in an interview. “This is a team that’s designed to go on from here, to go through the next millennium.”

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