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PEOPLE : Schulhof Expected to Be Named Sony USA President

March 07, 1990|JOHN LIPPMAN

Michael P. Schulhof, vice chairman of Sony Corp. of America and the man who spearheaded Sony Corp.'s expansion into the U.S. entertainment business, is expected today to be named president of Sony USA Inc., the holding company for all of Sony's U.S. interests. He will relinquish his title at Sony Corp. of America but remain on the subsidiary's board of directors. Schulhof previously was deputy president of Sony USA.

In this newly created position, Schulhof said he will be responsible for developing "synergies" among Sony's American businesses, which include CBS Records, Columbia Pictures Entertainment and the Sony line of consumer and professional electronic products. "Sony is now looking at ways to promote synergies between the hardware and the software sides," Schulhof said. "We need a year to digest all the acquisitions we've done recently."

Masaaki Morita, brother of Sony Corp. founder and Chairman Akio Morita, retains his title as chairman and chief executive of Sony Corp. of America and deputy president of the Japanese parent but also is given the additional title of vice chairman of Sony USA. Both will report directly to Norio Ohga, president and chief executive of Sony Corp. in Japan, who also holds the title of chairman of Sony USA.

Schulhof, who was the first American to get a seat on the board of a major Japanese company, is the man most publicly identified with Sony's thrust into the U.S. entertainment business. With what seemed to be a blank check from the giant electronics concern, Schulhof has made many in the business nervous about Sony's designs on the American entertainment industry. The move confirms Schulhof's reputation as a strategist who now must make the bits of Sony's U.S. puzzle fit together. Although Sony has spent nearly $6 billion acquiring high profile U.S. entertainment assets over the past two years, it still remains to be seen if Sony can use the "hardware" side--an ever-increasingly sophisticated array of television sets, video recorders, video cameras and the like--to fuel an appetite on the "software" side for films, television programs and the home videocassettes.

He cited as examples of synergy Sony's research into high-definition television production at Columbia's new studios in Culver City. And Sony and CBS Records are exploring how Sony's development and marketing of digital audio tape will effect the recorded music business.

Although Schulhof will hold one of Sony's most senior posts in America, he will not be directly responsible for operating any U.S. companies. Columbia co-heads Peter Guber and Jon Peters, as well as CBS Records president Walter Yetnikoff, will continue to report to Ohga, as they have in the past.

In a related move, Sony Corp. of America announced yesterday that Ron Sommer, president of Sony Deutschland GmbH, would join the American subsidiary as deputy president, a new position.

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