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Sagansky Expected to Be Named Head of Sony Software : Entertainment: Ex-CBS executive is said to be in final negotiations.

August 29, 1994|JOHN LIPPMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Jeffrey Sagansky, the former chief programmer at CBS who guided the network from third to first place in the ratings, is expected to be named president of Sony Software, the holding company of Sony Pictures, Sony Music and the company's growing multimedia operations, knowledgeable sources said Sunday.

Sagansky, who left CBS earlier this summer, will report to current Sony Software President Michael P. Schulhof, who is expected to be promoted to chairman of Sony Software, the sources added. Sagansky will be based in New York.

Sagansky is said to be in final negotiations and an announcement is expected be made later this week.

Since leaving CBS when his contract expired, Sagansky has been weighing various offers, including becoming a partner in Savoy Pictures, the independent film production and distribution company.

But in an unusual arrangement, Sony Pictures Chairman Peter Guber will continue to report directly to Schulhof. That may be only a temporary arrangement, however, because many people in the industry expect Guber, who has headed Sony Pictures for nearly five years, to return to producing as early as next year. The appointment of Sagansky will put an executive who has experience in both television and the movie industry at the helm of one of the largest entertainment companies in the country. Before he joined CBS in 1989, Sagansky was president of TriStar pictures, a Sony subsidiary.

Sagansky, who is out of town, could not be reached for comment. Sony officials also could not be reached for comment.

Exactly how Sagansky and Schulhof will delineate responsibilities is not clear. Sony has often been criticized for being top heavy with senior managers and Sagansky's appointment could signal that other changes are in the works.

Although Sony Music, whose artists include Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen and Mariah Carey, has been achieving record results, the film division has lagged behind the other big Hollywood studios. Movie revenue dropped 7% to $3.2 billion for the fiscal year ended March 31.

On the television side, the studio has also been without a big hit in recent years, with the exception of the NBC comedy "Mad About You." The television division is also more than a year behind schedule in launching a new cable TV game show channel.

There had been speculation in recent weeks that Sony was wooing Disney studio Chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg, who lost a bid to play a large role at the entertainment company. But last week, Sony denied that it was in negotiations with Katzenberg.

Times staffer Alan Citron also contributed to this story.

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