What the Michael Lynton contract renewal means for Sony
Sony Entertainment Inc. Chief Executive Michael Lynton has renewed his contract, a move that is likely to silence chatter in some Hollywood circles that has centered on the executive’s future at the company.
In his post, Lynton oversees the global entertainment business for Sony Corp., the Tokyo-based media and electronics conglomerate. Lynton, 53, joined Sony Pictures Entertainment as chairman in January 2004. He is one of the longest-tenured studio chiefs in the business, trailing just a few executives with similar jobs -- Universal Studios President and Chief Operating Officer Ron Meyer and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Jim Gianopulos.
Wheeler Winston Dixon, a film studies professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said that Lynton’s relatively long run atop a studio is a testament to the executive’s penchant for “flying beneath the radar and doing it quietly. I think he understands it is essential to stand back from the product and not position yourself as the face of it.”
But Lynton hasn’t completely avoided the Hollywood rumor mill, which regularly paints bulls-eyes on the backs of studio heads. After Sony Chairman Howard Stringer stepped down as chief executive of the company in spring 2012, industry observers began speculating that there could be a shake-up at the company under new Chief Executive Kazuo Hirai.
Hollywood trade publication Variety wrote in February 2012 that Sony faced a challenge in aligning its entertainment and electronics business and that as a result the company could spin off its show business assets into a different entity.
So far, no realignment has occurred. But, Stringer, who retained his chairman position after relinquishing the CEO role, announced March 8 that he would retire from the conglomerate in June. Stringer and Lynton are considered to be allies.
Lynton was appointed to the role of CEO of Sony Entertainment in March 2012. He remains chairman and chief executive of Sony Pictures, running the studio with Co-Chairman Amy Pascal. He also oversees the company’s music businesses, which include Sony Music Entertainment and Sony/ATV Music Publishing.
“I’m thrilled that Michael has renewed,” Pascal said in an email. “We’ve been together for a decade and I’m looking forward to another decade.”
A Sony spokesperson declined to disclose the length of Lynton’s new contract.
Sony has had a tough few years in its core business: electronics. The company has struggled to keep up with competitors such as South Korea’s Samsung Group and Apple Inc. -- losing ground in key areas such as television and mobile phone sales.
However, the company’s movie studio has been a bright spot. Worldwide box office revenue for Sony Pictures’ movies surpassed $4 billion in 2012 -- the first time the studio has achieved that feat.
Last year, the company released such hits as “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “Men in Black 3,” among other films. And the studio’s “Zero Dark Thirty” was nominated for five Academy Awards. The studio ranked No. 1 in North American theatrical market share, with total grosses of $1.768 billion.
“I am grateful to work with some of the finest minds in the entertainment business, starting with my partner at Sony Pictures, Amy Pascal, as well as Doug Morris at Sony Music and Marty Bandier at Sony/ATV,” Lynton said in a statement. “They are the best in their fields, and together we will strive to bring the very best films, music and television shows to our growing, global audiences.”
Dixon said he expects that news of Lynton’s new contract should quiet some of the talk about Sony and the fates of its top executives.
“Since he has been re-upped I think it is definitely going to silence the chatter,” he said. “I don’t know what Sony’s ultimate fortunes are going to be, but if you put him in charge I think things might shake out.”
Prior to joining Sony, Lynton served as president of the Walt Disney Co.'s Hollywood Pictures and as chairman and chief executive of publishing company Penguin Group.
Sony Chief Executive Hirai, also the company’s president, praised Lynton’s “steady leadership” in a statement.
“I look forward to working closely with Michael in ensuring that music and pictures remain integral parts of our global strategy,” he said. “We’re thrilled he will continue at the helm for years to come.”
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