Sony Pictures Fires Digital Chief Bob Osher (EXCLUSIVE)

Sony Pictures Fires Digital Chief Bob

Sony Pictures Digital president Bob Osher, who oversaw Sony Animation and Imageworks for the past seven years, has been fired, according to knowledgeable sources.

Thursday’s firing comes amid an ongoing shakeup at the studio. On Tuesday, Tom Rothman was named chairman of its motion picture group in a surprise move that followed the Feb. 5 ouster of Amy Pascal as co-chair of the Culver City-based studio.

In conjunction with Osher’s departure, Sony is restructuring the digital operations he led. Imageworks, its character animation and visual effects arm, will now be folded into the company’s motion picture group. Post-production services, worldwide product fulfillment, production services and asset management will be infused into both the motion picture group and Sony Pictures Television.

Randy Lake, executive vice president of Sony Pictures Digital Productions, will lead the organization while reporting to the television and motion picture group, Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton told staff in an internal email.

“I want to thank Bob for his 11 years of service and acknowledge the important role he played in strengthening the financial and operational foundation of SPDP,” Lynton wrote.

Osher’s departure isn’t exactly a surprise. In an email unveiled in December as part of the massive Sony hacking attack, Variety reported that Lynton had indicated to Amy Pascal that Osher would have to be terminated.

“We just renewed Bob which is also a problem given what we will probably have to do. That being said we should do it,” Lynton said in the email.

The stolen emails revealed Sony had tried and failed last summer to recruit “The Lego Movie” director Phil Lord and Chris Miller to take over its animation division. But when the pair were asked to detail any concerns they might have about coming to Sony, Lord responded by citing the bad reputation of Sony Pictures Animation and the studio’s visual effects unit Sony Pictures Imageworks, a characterization that developed from the loss of key talent from both divisions and Imageworks’ move to Vancouver.

Sony ultimately hired DreamWorks Animation veteran Kristine Belson for the newly created post of president of Sony Pictures Animation — which had been part of Sony Pictures Digital Productions. At that point, Sony said Osher remained in charge of digital operations, but the animation division no longer fell under SPDP.

Belson’s appointment followed the departure of Michelle Raymo Kouyate as production president of Sony Pictures Animation. Kouyate’s tenure included releases of “Hotel Transylvania,” “The Smurfs 2″ and “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2.”

Osher, who earned $1.25 million annually, was named president of the digital production division of Sony Pictures Entertainment in 2008. He had joined Sony Pictures in 2004 as chief operating officer of the Columbia Pictures Motion Picture Group.

Osher joined Sony after a six-year stint as co-president of production at Miramax Films. He previously was co-founder and executive VP of the Turner Pictures Group, which included co-running Turner Feature Animation.

Before that, he worked as senior VP of business and legal affairs at Walt Disney Studios and Touchstone Pictures.

UPDATE, 2:18 p.m. PST — Lynton has confirmed the ouster in an email to employees:

I wanted to share with you some news about changes to Sony Pictures Digital Productions (SPDP).

Bob Osher, currently President of SPDP, has decided to leave the studio to pursue other interests. I want to thank Bob for his 11 years of service and acknowledge the important role he played in strengthening the financial and operational foundation of SPDP, including launching successful franchises for Sony Pictures Animation (CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS, SMURFS and HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA) as well as turning Sony Pictures Imageworks into a profitable leading visual-effects company. Please join me in thanking him for his many contributions and wishing him the best in his future endeavors.

Separately, we are making some operational changes to SPDP’s businesses in order to increase collaboration across the studio and unite teams that work closely together. Imageworks will now be part of the Motion Picture Group. Post Production Services, Worldwide Product Fulfillment, Production Services, and Asset Management will now be aligned with both the Motion Picture Group and Sony Pictures Television. Randy Lake, Executive Vice President of SPDP, will continue in his new role leading the organization, reporting jointly to both the Television and Motion Picture Group.

David Cohen contributed to this report.
(pictured: Amy Pascal and Bob Osher in 2013)

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  1. I would love to be hired and clean the house over there @ Sony. They did lose KEY talent, lately- Bye Bye, suckers. The best intern still stands strong out there, when heads are rollin.

  2. Ex SPI Artist says:

    Unfortunately, this firing/resignation is about 8 years too late. Osher took a thriving, creative and award winning company that was Imageworks and completely sucked the ever loving life out of it. It is now a shell of it’s former self with it’s reputation as a visual effects powerhouse in complete ruins. Under Bob’s tenure, some of the best and brightest minds in the fx/animation industry were unceremoniously and inexplicably released or scared away while people who have don’t have a creative bone in their bodies stayed on to continue the decline of the once great company.

    Hopefully, with Bob gone, the heads of Sony Pictures can start to rebuild the reputation of Imageworks and attract some of the work and artists lost to his and Randy Lake’s short sighted decision-making and return SPI to it’s former glory.

    • let_me_be_clear says:

      Well said! Only thing I would note is that there are still a handful of very brilliant, creative people there that managed to survive Osherwitz. These people were actually TOO irreplaceable to be let go just yet, even though Bob was very clearly salivating and chomping at the bit to do so once they’d fully trained their replacements.

      There are far too few of them, though, to carry more than one tent-pole on their own. They had a very, very, VERY difficult time finding qualified people in Vancouver. Bob & Randy pretty literally forced them to abandon their normal standards and hire ANYONE they could get just to staff their projects. They got lucky to find a few good people, but by-and-large the people who got at the new location didn’t get on because they were the best-of-the-best, they got on because Osher/Lake were desperate.

  3. rootUser says:

    It would be great to see SPI turn into a power house again.

  4. let_me_be_clear says:

    “…as well as turning Sony Pictures Imageworks into a profitable leading visual-effects company”

    Let’s get one other thing clear: Imageworks WAS a leading visual-effects company UNTIL Osher took over and indiscriminately cut or chased away almost everyone that made it that way.

    • let_me_be_clear says:

      If he had stayed in charge, Imageworks would have unquestionably gone under in the next two years.

      In an industry that requires good people, strong relationships, creativity and innovation: A company can’t survive solely by being cheap and can only go so far on it’s former reputation.

  5. little beavis says:

    sony eletronics became too good for the world so they nocking out the best too save the rest it,s a shame because without sony. everything is going be the same

  6. animcoop says:

    You know, if executives had half a mind to solicit the feedback and opinions of their highly intelligent staff, Lynton would have the foresight to save Sony Pictures the grief they’ll inevitably encounter down the road by putting Lake at the helm of this new organization.

  7. SP Outsider says:

    Bob resigned and was not fired. Bad and incorrect press release writing (to make Lynton look good!).

    Lake should be drained completely, starting at the top first!

  8. minoton says:

    If Lynton is reading these comments, he should fire Randy as well, as he was just Bob’s ‘Mini Me’. Let’s hope their first move is to return work and American jobs back to the Culver buildings.

  9. Tobey says:

    Isn’t it great the Internet gives idiots like VoxTroll, Joevfx and bob_is a place to “say” cr@p they wouldn’t have the guts to say in person? Do you write posts to the families of people who have died saying the world is better off without them as well? If you can’t post something constructive or at least civil, don’t bother.

    • let_me_be_clear says:

      I actually would, and have, said most of the same stuff to someone in every level of management at Imageworks/SPA. Guess what? They didn’t disagree. Saying it to Bob’s face… that *would* be pointless and idiotic. The guy is a sociopath who’s gleefully ruined lives, created a chronic state of anxiety among staff, crushed morale, treated everyone like they were replaceable, and flipped a once great company on its head in the process: he deserves every last drop of the sh*t he gets and a few truckloads more for good measure.

    • bob_is_a_douche says:

      Yes, it is great.

    • SPInsider says:

      <–Don't feed the trolls people.

  10. bob_is_a_douche says:

    Bob, you just saved the company a million dollars. Your cost cutting moves are genious!

  11. Phil says:

    So Michael Lynton…were you lying about firing Bob Osher in your hacked e-mail or lying in your public announcement about Osher’s decision to quit Sony because other interests are now more important to him?

    I guess no matter what changes are occurring at Sony, there isn’t enough public hacking in the world to modify the lack of integrity there. Before you do the next stupid sequel how about trying an honesty reboot?

  12. Johnny Mnemonic says:

    Does anyone else think Imageworks is being moved to the motion picture side since it’s the only profitable division? Nice way to pad the motion picture balance sheet so it looks like they’re doing something.

  13. VoxTroll says:

    In addition, Osher should be thrown out of the Motion Picture Academy for being an enemy of creativity.

  14. Joevfx says:

    Couldn’t happen to a nicer or more deserving guy. Good riddance. Hopefully Randy is next.

    • SPInsider says:

      Thank GOD Randy Lake will be “leading the organization”, though. The guy is marginally more capable of leading a creative organization than a bag of sticks. Clearly Michael is paying a lot of attention.

      • matteobject says:

        I suspect this is why SPI is moving into the Pictures group, they want to keep a very close eye on it instead of leaving them to their own devices again.

  15. bob_is_douche says:

    Seriously, f— this guy. We should add his photo to the entry on Wikipedia.
    He will ride off into the sunset in his fleet of multi-colored Porches.

  16. Pixbroker says:

    That’s fantastic news for Sony Pictures Imageworks! Osher has ripped the soul out of the once fabulous studio. I hope for my former colleges that this is is a new beginning. Best of luck!

  17. SPInsider says:

    “Please join me in thanking him for his many contributions and wishing him the best in his future endeavors.”

    Yes, thank you Bob for increasing the profit margin by eliminating as many of the most talented people as you could. Thank you for chasing off your most significant producers and execs! Thank you for creating such a hostile environment to artists that you couldn’t even retain great directors like Chris and Phil or Doug Sweetland! Thank you for bringing on a great director like Genndy and forcing him to make derivative crap. Thank you for forcing everyone to make Smurf’s movies and forcing your best artists and engineers to move out of the country or leave! Thank you for eliminating Imageworks competitive, ground-breaking edge and reducing it to a barely functional studio where innovation is a dirty word.

    Thank you so much, Bob, for all of your many brilliant contributions.

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