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Sony rejects Daniel Loeb's proposal to spin off entertainment arm

August 05, 2013|By Daniel Miller
  • Kazuo Hirai, president and CEO of Sony Corp., in Sun Valley, Idaho, last month.
Kazuo Hirai, president and CEO of Sony Corp., in Sun Valley, Idaho, last… (Kevork Djansezian / Getty…)

Sony Corp. has rejected a proposal by activist investor Daniel Loeb to make a public offering of up to 20% of its entertainment arm.

The Tokyo electronics and media giant said in an Aug. 6 letter addressed to Loeb, the chief executive of hedge fund Third Point, that it "unanimously concluded that continuing to own 100% of our entertainment business is the best path forward."

Loeb's Third Point owns about 7% of Sony, whose entertainment arm, Sony Entertainment Inc., includes film and television studio Sony Pictures Entertainment, Sony/ATV Music Publishing and Sony Music Entertainment.

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Loeb, who since May has made multiple public pleas for Sony to adopt his proposal, said in a July 29 letter to Third Point investors that Sony's entertainment arm "remains poorly managed." He also criticized Sony President and CEO Kazuo Hirai for giving "free passes" to Sony Pictures Entertainment's Chairman and CEO Michael Lynton and co-Chairman Amy Pascal.

Lynton also is chief executive of Sony Entertainment Inc.

Loeb labeled two recent Sony Pictures releases -- the Will Smith action movie "After Earth" and the Channing Tatum vehicle "White House Down" -- "2013's versions of 'Waterworld' and 'Ishtar' back-to-back," a reference to two of the most famous flops of all time.

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In his Aug. 6 response, Hirai said the company would "increase disclosure regarding Sony’s entertainment businesses. We agree this can help market participants analyze their performance and monitor their success."

Hirai's letter outlined various advances made by Sony in the last year or so, touting strengths in television production, a revitalization in the electronics business and talent development in the music business.

The letter said that having full control of its various entertainment businesses enables Sony to reap the benefits of synergies and drives internal collaboration.

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"Demand for content is increasing its value in a dynamic industry environment, and we believe our entertainment businesses will increasingly benefit from these trends," Hirai said in the letter.  

Last week, Sony reported net income of $35 million for its fiscal first quarter, which ended June 30, buoyed by an improvement in its mobile products division and the depreciation of the yen.

[Updated 11:03 p.m. PDT, Aug. 5, 2013: Third Point said in a statement that it was disappointed by Sony's decision but pleased that the company has made a "commitment to greater transparency." Third Point said it is looking forward to a continuing dialogue with Sony. "In the new spirit of transparency, management should communicate more specific plans to improve entertainment results," Third Point said.]


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Daniel Miller

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