Sony’s Kaplan takes Stock

Exec joins HSX.com as chair, CEO

Longtime Sony exec Andy Kaplan is joining the growing ranks of TV players making the move to new media.

Kaplan has been named chairman and CEO at Hollywood Stock Exchange, an online entertainment stock market site (HSX.com), after ankling Columbia TriStar Television Group (Daily Variety, Jan. 19).

Kaplan will assume HSX’s day-to-day management on May 1. The exec’s early mandates include raiding his Rolodex to create strategic partnerships with major studios and other new-media companies.

“I’ve known of the company for a couple of years and have been impressed with their growth,” Kaplan said. “I feel that they’re on to something that can be bigger and more built out. I think we need to broaden our base and make a product that’s more accessible to more users.”

Kaplan will also look to expand HSX’s focus to include television. Site, which targets 18- to 34-year-olds, centers on film and music.

Diverse background

As exec VP at Columbia TriStar Television Group, Kaplan oversaw Columbia TriStar’s production, distribution and international divisions; the Game Show Network; Columbia TriStar Interactive; and Sony Online Entertainment.

He also managed the company’s joint ventures and acquisition of Spanish-lingo network Telemundo.

Kaplan’s departure comes as part of a larger restructuring at Sony’s TV properties. Kaplan had been in line to replace CTTG prexy/Sony Pictures Entertainment exec VP Jon Feltheimer, who departed in September.

Sources said Sony Pictures Entertainment co-president and CEO Mel Harris is streamlining the company’s TV setup. Process has included the removal of the layer of Columbia TriStar Television Group management that included Feltheimer and Kaplan’s positions.

Sony didn’t name a replacement for Kaplan, but the company is in serious negotiations with UPN and Twentieth Television vet Len Grossi about a high-level post. That announcement could be made as soon as today.

Columbia TriStar Interactive, which was launched as part of the TV Group, had been combined with all of Sony’s digital assets under one division — Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment. Kaplan had been involved with Col TriStar Interactive since its inception, but the new setup removed the division from the TV Group and Kaplan’s hands.

Impasse reached

After Kaplan and Harris were unable to come to an agreement over Kaplan’s future at the company, Kaplan decided to depart.

“With Mel organizing the company in a slightly different way, it gave me an opportunity to reflect and look at what I wanted to do,” Kaplan said. “I’ve had a great run here. This is a good opportunity for me to move on. I feel I’m leaving a lot of the company in good hands.”

Kaplan is one of a number of high-level TV execs who have segued to the Internet in recent months, even as a shakeup in the online world appears imminent.

Second thoughts

Kaplan admitted he “thought twice” about moving online after last week’s new-media roller coaster but hopes the market downturn was “just a blip.”

“A little Darwinism will be reflected in the next 12 months,” he said. “But the user base of the Internet will continue to grow. The Internet’s not going away just because last Friday was bad.”

As one of the architects of the interactive group at Columbia TriStar, Kaplan said he’s gotten “the same bug that many people have.”

“It’s a bit cliched, but I do feel I’ve had a unique experience,” he said. “When we built the interactive group here, I remember being in a meeting talking about the Web and people just looked at me cross-eyed. It’s not like the Internet is something I just discovered yesterday.”

Kaplan joined Columbia in 1987 as vice president. Prior to that he spent time at Hal Roach Studios and Embassy Pictures.

“Andy Kaplan’s leadership, strategic vision and instinct for great entertainment that pushes the envelope is unparalleled,” said HSX co-founder/co-chairman Michael Burns.

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