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Sony Pictures CEO search narrows with Tony Vinciquerra as front-runner

FILE - This Dec. 18, 2014, file photi, shows a Sony Pictures Entertainment studio lot entrance from
Sony Pictures Entertainment studio lot entrance in Culver City.
(Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press)

Sony Pictures Entertainment is zeroing in on former Fox Networks head Tony Vinciquerra to replace Michael Lynton as its chief executive officer, according to three people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to comment publicly.

Lynton, who held the top spot at the Japanese-owned entertainment company for 13 years, said in January he would step down to focus his efforts on Snapchat maker Snap Inc., where he is chairman of the board.

The Culver City studio is in the late stages of interviewing candidates and has not made an offer for the CEO position. Sony would like to settle on a new leader by mid-May, according to several people familiar with the process.

A Sony spokesman declined to comment on Vinciquerra’s front-runner status, reported earlier Wednesday by Variety.

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Tokyo-based parent company Sony Corp., led by CEO Kazuo Hirai, has been looking for a leader with strong management experience to take over the multifaceted entertainment company, which includes international TV networks along with the film and television studio. Hirai has been spending more time on the studio lot to find a replacement.

Vinciquerra has strong management chops. He led Fox Networks under Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. for about a decade, building its cable networks and international distribution, until he stepped down in early 2011. He has since worked as a senior advisor to investment giant TPG Capital and serves as a director for entertainment and media companies. He serves on the boards of STX Entertainment, Univision Communications, Qualcomm and Pandora Internet Radio.

Before joining Fox, Vinciquerra was chief operating officer of Hearst Television.

If Vinciquerra joins Sony, he will have a big task before him. The studio has been struggling to mount a turnaround since the devastating cyberattack of 2014 that was blamed on the North Korean government.

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The motion pictures unit, led by Tom Rothman, has weathered a series of box office disappointments, including computer-animated “Smurfs: The Lost Village” and the star-studded space thriller “Life.” Its upcoming films include “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” co-produced by Walt Disney’s Marvel Studios, and the Stephen King fantasy adaptation “The Dark Tower.”

Sony’s TV division, known for hits like “The Blacklist” on NBC and “Shark Tank” on ABC, has been run by a consortium of executives since the ouster of TV chairman Steve Mosko last year. Key television executives’ contracts are expiring later this year.

Lynton, as CEO of the larger Sony Entertainment business, also had oversight of the music companies, Sony Music Entertainment and Sony/ATV Music Publishing, but those units would likely not be included in the new chief’s duties.

Hollywood has experienced a wave of executive overhauls in its top ranks as studios cope with broad shifts in the entertainment industry. Viacom Inc. last month hired former Fox Film boss Jim Gianopulos to lead a turnaround of Paramount Pictures following to ouster of studio chairman Brad Grey.

Staff writer Meg James contributed to this report.

ryan.faughnder@latimes.com

@rfaughnder

Times Staff Writer Meg James contributed to this report.

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