Sony watch: Company rejects shareholder’s demand


UPDATE (Aug. 6): Third Point’s Daniel Loeb in an interview with Variety said his relations with Sony are just fine:

In an exclusive interview, Loeb, whose Third Point owns an estimated 7% of Sony, struck a much more conciliatory tone toward the Japanese electronics giant than he’s demonstrated in recent weeks. He praised Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai’s letter to him, calling it “thoughtfully written and detailed in its discussion of profitability and transparency. There was a lot there for shareholders to hang their hats on.”

In response, Nikki Finkke, the editor-in-chief of the Deadline entertainment Web site, wasn’t buying it IN A COMMENTARY. Here’s a partial quote:

So now Third Point hedge fund CEO Daniel Loeb claims today he’s backing off Sony. But only after the putz created chaos and confusion inside a stable and successful studio…Now Loeb will simply retreat to his $45 million penthouse at 15 Central Park West and dream home in East Hampton and not give Hollywood another thought until the next time he feels the urge to kvetch.

ORIGINAL POST (Aug. 5): Sony Corp.’s board rejected a proposal from a major shareholder to sell a piece of its entertainment business, which includes Sony Pictures, the studio that has released the last three James Bond movies.

Sony issued A STATEMENT that reads in part:

Sony Corporation today sent a letter to Third Point LLC following a unanimous vote of Sony’s Board of Directors. The letter outlines that the Board and management team strongly believe that continuing to own 100% of the Company’s entertainment businesses is fundamental to Sony’s success, and that a rights or public offering is not consistent with the Company’s strategy for achieving sustained growth in profitability and shareholder value.

Third Point, led by investor Daniel Loeb, wanted Sony to sell a piece of the entertainment business in an initial public offering. Third Point recently criticized management of the entertainment business for a couple of box-office duds. One prominent Hollywood actor-producer-director, George Clooney, spoke up in Sony’s defense in AN INTERVIEW WITH THE DEADLINE ENTERTAINMENT NEWS WEB SITE.

For now, there’s no real effect on the Bond movies. Sony is slated to release its fourth 007 movie, the untitled Bond 24, in the fall of 2015. Third Point and Loeb presumably will remain a source of tension the management of Sony Pictures. The studio’s big properties in the coming years are Bond 24 and three scheduled Spider-Man movies in 2014, 2016 and 2018.

Skyfall, last year’s Bond movie, sold about $1.1 billion in tickets worldwide. The New York Times reported in May that Skyfall didn’t generate that much profit for the company because Sony was third in line for the proceeds behind Eon Productions/Danjaq and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Speculation: could U.N.C.L.E. and Holmes be tied together?

David McDaniel's The Dagger Affair

David McDaniel’s The Dagger Affair

A response to a recent post has a reminder there’s a sort-of Sherlock Holmes tie to The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Could director Guy Ritchie, who’s helming a movie version of the 1964-68 series, seize upon that?

Background: The original show generated 23 paperback novels based on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Author David McDaniel penned many of the best. His first effort, The Dagger Affair, suggested that the villainous organization Thrush was a remnant of the group started by Professor Moriarty, the arch-nemesis of Sherlock Holmes.

McDaniel also devised that Thrush was really an acronym standing for the Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity.

The series had its own origin for Thrush, in the second-season episode The Adriatic Express Affair, written by Robert Hill, in which Thrush chieftain Madame Nemirovitch (Jesse Royce Landis) claims she founded the organization. The McDaniel version isn’t canon but many fans of the original show perfer it to the Nemirovitch version.

Ritchie’s second Holmes film, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, featured a showdown between Robert Downey Jr.’s Holmes and Jared Harris’s Moriarty. So for director Ritchie and his U.N.C.L.E. producer Lionel Wigram (who worked on the Holmes movies) this is familiar territory.

The new movie, scheduled to start filming on Sept. 7, is to depict the first mission where Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin are paired. Whether it also has an origin for Thrush (or THRUSH, if you prefer) remains to be seen.