THE DEALMAKER: Sony toppers Amy Pascal and Michael Lynton have a secret dealmaking weapon: Peter Schlessel. The president of worldwide affairs has been at the studio for 20 years, and has held posts in almost all aspects of Sony’s operations, giving him, he believes, a unique advantage. “You have a shorthand with everyone. I grew up with everyone here — there’s a lot of trust. … I’m Amy and Michael’s consigliere,” says Schlessel, who’s involved in everything — from food service to the studio’s physical plant to its drive to go green. Oh, and a little movie franchise called “Spider-Man” — along with senior exec VP business affairs Andrew Gumpert, he’s heavily involved with the series’ fourth and fifth installments.
Sony’s aggressively pursuing local-language productions, especially in Russia and India, and Schlessel credits the “TV guys with being really innovative” in creating global opportunities. Indeed, it’s the trust Schlessel puts in the entire Sony team that allows him the luxury of focusing on worldwide strategy.
The consummate team player, whose particular Spidey sense is attuned to the rhythms of the backlot, Schlessel credits Leah Weil, senior executive VP/general counsel; John Weiser, president of distribution, Sony Pictures Television (“I can ask him anything,” says Schlessel); and Gumpert as his strongest supports, and key players who, when he gets stuck, will throw out ideas.
“We’ve started a social on Thursday nights on the lot, with hundreds of employees mingling. … I don’t know how you put a value on that,” says Schlessel.
DEALMAKER DOS: “Be flexible and consistent, and listen to the other party’s point of view.”
DEALMAKER DON’TS: “Don’t think you have all the answers.”
TOP DEALMAKERS ENCOUNTERED: Mentor Ken Lemberger, who was Sony president of motion pictures and “who taught me how to approach a deal”; Peter Guber.