Sony Pictures Entertainment president and chief operating officer John Calley unveiled a new corporate structure Wednesday that will leave his own quirky imprint on the once-beleaguered studio and aims to streamline a filmmaking process that had long been under fire from many industry vets.
The SPE plan will give the company an unusual multileveled “collaborative team” approach, with nearly all senior film executives reporting directly to Calley, rather than through a series of intermediaries, as had been the case under former chairman Alan Levine and Columbia TriStar chairman Mark Canton.
Calley will supervise all other divisions at SPE. But he has divided specific oversight among his top corporate team of co-president Jeff Sagansky (TV and international business), exec VP Yuki Nozoe (worldwide business development, marketing, technology and communications activity) and senior exec VP Robert Wynne (corporate operations).
A similar retooling is in the works on the TV side, which has changed monikers from Sony Television Entertain-ment to Columbia TriStar Television Group. Jon Feltheimer, president of the TV group, has also been upped to executive vice president of Sony Pictures Entertainment.
According to the announcement, Calley will personally “chair all creative and operational aspects of” the newly re-named Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group. (The unit had once used that moniker, but switched several years ago to the Col TriStar Motion Picture Cos. No reason was given for the change back.)
In reinventing the film division, Calley will work with Col TriStar vice chair Lucy Fisher and Gareth Wigan, who is bumped from Columbia Pictures exec VP to co-vice chair of the Motion Picture Group. Columbia Pictures prexy Amy Pascal and TriStar Pictures president Robert Cooper will round out the feature film team. All four report di-rectly to Calley.
Kenneth Lemberger, an 18-year veteran of SPE and its predecessor companies, will be the newly named president of Col TriStar Motion Picture Group, handling the worldwide business and financial dealings for SPE’s films. He fills a role left vacant when former Col TriStar prexy Fred Bernstein ankled the company last fall. Lemberger also reports directly to Calley.
“This is a collaborative structure designed to streamline the creative decision-making process, attract top talent and build new motion picture franchises that we can market effectively through a growing international distribution platform,” Calley said. “It’s a very exciting time to be at Sony.”
Under Levine and Canton, Sony was faulted for the numerous levels of bureaucracy that any filmmaker had to penetrate to get a feature greenlit, much less made at Sony. Sources said Calley wants to clean up that process to make the studio filmmaker-friendly.
SPE’s international film division — Col TriStar Film Distributors Intl. under prexy Duncan Clark — will report directly to Calley. Sony Pictures Classics, headed by co-prexys Michael Barker, Tom Bernard and Marcie Bloom, as well as David Saunders’ Triumph Pictures division, will also be on Calley’s direct watch.
Sagansky will take over Dennis Miller’s former duties, overseeing the Columbia TriStar Television Group, which remains under Feltheimer.
Feltheimer has quickly established a strong relationship with Calley, and has long ties to Sagansky. Feltheimer will also participate in Sony Pictures Entertainment’s overall strategic plans as well as have oversight over all of the company’s TV operations. Feltheimer, who had reported to Levine and Miller, will now report to Sagansky.
Andy Kaplan, executive vice president of Columbia TriStar Television Group, will continue to work directly with Feltheimer on overseeing all aspects of the TV group, including its new children’s programming and animation ventures.
Continuing to report to Feltheimer are Eric Tannenbaum, president of Columbia TriStar Television; Barry Thurston, president of Columbia TriStar Television Distribution; and Michael Grindon, president of Columbia TriStar Television Intl.
A detailed announcement formalizing the television division’s structure is expected in a few weeks.
Also under Sagansky’s watch will be Yair Landau, who is being promoted to senior VP of corporate development and strategic planning. One focus for that group will be new media and Internet-related opportunities.
“One of our top priorities is to build content creation capabilities in other parts of the world equal to our highly successful domestic capabilities,” Sagansky said.
Nozoe’s emphasis will be on forging direct alliances between SPE and other Sony corporate families. He will be in charge of an international council to foster that goal. And he will help coordinate SPE’s new Digital Studio Divi-sion, assisting unit president Ken Williams in the development of new industry technologies.
Lemberger will also oversee the Digital Studio Division, encompassing Sony Pictures Imageworks visual effects, animation and multimedia efforts under the leadership of Ken Ralston, as well as TV initiatives and one of two Sony worldwide centers for new Digital Video Disk (DVD) titles. Columbia TriStar Home Video, under president Ben Feingold, also falls under Lemberger’s mantle.
Wynne is charged with centralizing key corporate and financial operations, and overseeing the legal, studio operations and human resources departments. Senior VP and general counsel Ronald Jacobi, human resources senior VP Lucy Wander-Perna and Sony Pictures studios president Arnold Shupack will report to Wynne.
Film marketing chief Bob Levin was also upped to president of worldwide marketing for SPE. He will have additional duties for branding, product placement and marketing strategies for entertainment products for many of SPE’s other businesses, including Sony Signatures and the SPE consumer product division.
Jeff Blake continues as president of Sony Pictures Releasing, managing theatrical distribution chores for the mo-tion picture group of Columbia, TriStar and Triumph, though Sony Classics will continue to distribute itself.