You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Sony’s Calley dallies as Roth’s role grows

Move puzzles insiders

Industry dealmakers who’ve been hoping for a clarification of Sony Entertainment’s opaque power pyramid were not surprised to learn last week that, if anything, the structure may grow even more opaque.

Joe Roth is expected to take a spot soon on the Sony Entertainment board, where he will doubtless have an influence on the policies of the studio.

Though Howard Stringer has courted Roth to head Sony Pictures Entertainment almost since Revolution’s inception, it’s now clear that the former Disney studio chief wants to play out his hand at Revolution, the company he founded a year ago.

As a stopgap, Stringer has signed John Calley, 71, to remain as Sony’s studio head for another year, thus postponing issues of succession.

Revolution is partially financed by Sony, which also distributes its movies and funds prints and advertising. The tight relationship between the companies has caused rival producers doing business with Sony to worry that Roth’s pics may enjoy an additional measure of marketing and advertising support than do theirs. Such concerns may be heightened if Sony makes a deal, as expected, for Geoff Ammer to take a top marketing spot at Sony. Ammer, also formerly at Disney, now heads marketing at Revolution under Roth.

Insiders puzzled

The unwillingness of Stringer, 58, to make a firm decision on issues of succession has puzzled Sony insiders.

The Welsh-born Stringer, who holds the position of president of Sony Corp. of America, has confided his reluctance to hire a conventional production chief who may not be prepared to embrace the digital future to which Sony is dedicated. “I don’t need a studio guy, I need a digital studio guy,” Stringer has said.

Yair Landau, 38, currently president of Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment, a newly formed operating unit of SPE, is considered a dark horse for the job should Roth demur.

In view of its broadband objectives, Stringer’s continued commitment to Calley, whose studio background goes back to the ’60s, is doubly ironic: For the past couple of years Calley has functioned more as a high-level consultant than as a hands-on production chief, delegating many of those duties to Amy Pascal, the chairman of Columbia Pictures.

Roth, meanwhile, has technically been barred from taking a more direct role at Sony because of a lingering noncompete clause that he signed in leaving Disney. That restriction ends in November.

Relishes autonomy

Roth recently finished directing “America’s Sweethearts” and clearly relishes his autonomy at Revolution.

In the past he has worked for some of the industry’s toughest taskmasters — Rupert Murdoch, Barry Diller and Michael Eisner — and has been reluctant to return to the corporate arena. In addition, neither Stringer nor Roth are convinced that the Japanese board of directors would approve the sort of deal that would attract Roth to play a full-time role at Sony.

Indeed, even Roth’s appointment to the Sony Pictures board has not as yet been approved at the corporate level. The board is an informal one, not akin to a corporate board of directors.

By extending the Calley deal, Stringer delays these machinations for 18 months. From the standpoint of profitability, Stringer has no cause to be agitated: Most of Sony’s releases over the past year have been in the black, and the company is high on its forthcoming slate.

“The status quo isn’t hurting us,” said one top-level Sony executive.

More Biz

  • Tan FranceUnforgettable Gala, Inside, Los Angeles,

    'Queer Eye' Star Tan France to Host Audiobook Audie Awards

    “Queer Eye” resident style expert Tan France is taking on a slightly different project next month as he hosts the Audie Awards, which honors the best releases and achievements in audiobooks over the past 12 months. The ceremony, which takes place on March 4 in New York, is an annual event organized by the Audio [...]

  • Obit Obituary Placeholder

    Shelly Saltman, Former Fox Sports President and Promoter, Dies at 87

    Sheldon “Shelly” Saltman, the sports promoter behind the Billie Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs tennis match and Evel Knievel’s Snake River Canyon jump, died Saturday in Los Angeles. He was 87. The original president of Fox Sports, Saltman started his career as a sports announcer before moving to promotions at media companies like the Gillette Cavalcade [...]

  • Arista Records, Mogul Vision Launch Joint

    Arista Records, Mogul Vision Launch Joint Venture

    Arista Records and Smokepurpp/ Lil Mosey manager Josh Marshall today announced the launch of Mogul Vision Music, a new joint venture label focused on “breaking extraordinary talent and building artist careers through innovative A&R, branding and marketing strategy,” according to the announcement. Based in New York with Marshall (pictured above left, with Massey) as its CEO, the [...]

  • Jussie Smollett

    Jussie Smollett Faces Prison, Career Ruin if He Lied About Attack

    Jussie Smollett is facing prison time and the implosion of his career if it turns out he lied about being the target of a hate crime, legal and public relations experts say. “The best thing that Jussie can do is pray and pray a lot,” said Ronn Torossian, founder of 5W Public Relations. “If he [...]

  • Gerrit Meier Variety Strictly Business Podcast

    Listen: Red Bull Practically Invented Branded Entertainment. What's Next?

    With memorable moves like sponsoring Felix Baumgartner’s jump from outer space in 2012 to achieve the world’s farthest ever-parachute drop, Red Bull has been a pioneering force in branded entertainment. While known best for its line of energy drinks, the beverage maker has eschewed traditional marketing for content that blurred the boundaries between advertising and [...]

  • Martin Bandier to Be Honored at

    Martin Bandier to Be Honored at Songwriters Hall of Fame Ceremony

    Martin Bandier, outgoing chairman and CEO of Sony/ATV Music Publishing, will be awarded the Visionary Leadership Award at the 50 th Annual Songwriters Hall of Fame Induction and Awards Dinner. The ceremony will take place on Thursday, June 13 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York City. According to the announcement, the Visionary Leadership Award “acknowledges a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame Board [...]

  • Hong Kong Disneyland Remains in the

    Hong Kong Disneyland Remains in the Red but Reduces Losses

    The Hong Kong Disneyland Resort theme park remained in the red for the fourth straight year, but there are signs of improvement. For the financial year to end-September 2018, HKDL reported $769 million (HK$6 billion) of revenue from 6.7 million visitors, an increase of 8%. Net losses fell from $32 million (HK$291 million) to $6.92 [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content