Sony Corp. has promoted Howard Stringer, 56, to chairman of its American operations in a move that centralizes management and streamlines the reporting structure.
As part of the realignment, Sony Pictures Entertainment head John Calley, bumped up to chairman, and Sony Music Entertainment chief Thomas Mottola, also given a chairman title, will now report directly to the New York-based Stringer. The two operating heads previously answered directly to parent Sony Corp. Chairman Nobuyuki Idei in Tokyo.
Downplaying speculation that the move sets the stage for a long-anticipated public offering of Sony's entertainment operations, Stringer said, "It doesn't mean a great deal. It keeps arguments in the same time zone."
He said the motivation was strictly to "simplify and formalize what already was a de facto, growing relationship between the operating companies."
The British-born, Oxford-educated Stringer, who joined Sony in May 1997, said Calley and Mottola remain in charge of day-to-day operations of their respective businesses, and that he will continue in his role as strategist for the parent company and as liaison between the U.S. and Tokyo in bridging the worlds of software and technology.
Stringer, now chairman and CEO of Sony Corp. of America, discounted the suggestion that the new reporting structure portends the retirement of Calley, who is 68. "Just the opposite," Stringer said. "My job is to make sure John is going to stay another five or 10 years."
Sony has acknowledged that it has considered offering shares to the public to raise funds, but sources say that until Sony controls its own distribution system, the company is unlikely to launch an offering.
Spinning off its entertainment operations might enable Sony to buy a broadcast network, something the company is prohibited from doing under foreign ownership.
Stringer, who was the former president of the CBS broadcast group, acknowledges that there had been discussions between Sony and CBS about a possible combination, but that "they did not lead to negotiations and have since ended."