Fox TV Veteran Leads Field for Sony Film Post -- WSJ

By Ben Fritz and Joe Flint Features Dow Jones Newswires

Sony Corp. is narrowing its focus on former Fox television chief Tony Vinciquerra as the next head of its film and television studio, people with knowledge of the talks said.

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Mr. Vinciquerra, 62 years old, has moved to the head of the pack as other potential candidates have fallen by the wayside, including Walt Disney Co. international chairman Andy Bird, former Disney Chief Operating Officer Tom Staggs and former Fox film studio chief Jim Gianopulos, who now runs Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures.

He would succeed Michael Lynton, who has led Sony Pictures Entertainment since 2004 and is leaving to focus on his position as chairman of tech company Snap Inc., in which he was an early investor.

Mr. Vinciquerra recently traveled to Tokyo to meet with top Sony executives. The search for a new studio chief is being led by Mr. Lynton and Sony Chief Executive Kazuo Hirai, who has this year been spending more time on the studio's Culver City, Calif., lot.

A veteran television executive known for being a shrewd deal maker and strong operator, Mr. Vinciquerra was chairman and chief executive of the Fox Television Networks Group for about a decade, overseeing its cable, broadcast and sports operations.

Before that, Mr. Vinciquerra ran Hearst-Argyle Television, a large owner of local TV stations.

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While Mr. Vinciquerra has strong business chops, he also was involved in the creative operations for Fox's broadcast and cable outlets as well as overseeing the company's international TV operations, which is where much of Sony's growth is coming from.

Mr. Vinciquerra still has "several hurdles" to overcome and it isn't yet a sure thing he will get the job, according to one of the people familiar with the matter.

One of the first priorities for Mr. Lynton's successor will be to retain the management of the television unit, the main profit engine for the studio. The contracts of Sony Pictures Television Presidents Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht expire at the end of August, and renewal talks have been delayed because of the search for a successor to Mr. Lynton, who is 57 years old.

Despite not owning a broadcast network or a big cable channel like their competitors, Sony's TV unit is one of the most prolific in the industry. Its shows include "The Crown" for Netflix, "Kevin Can Wait" on CBS and "The Blacklist" on NBC.

Sony's motion picture business, meanwhile, has been in a slump for the past few years and is struggling to develop new globally successful franchises. Sony in February took a write-down of nearly $1 billion on its studio, due primarily to problems in the movie business.

Mr. Lynton also oversees Sony's recorded-music and music-publishing businesses. Mr. Vinciquerra's purview wouldn't include those businesses should he take over the studio, the knowledgeable people said.

Write to Ben Fritz at ben.fritz@wsj.com and Joe Flint at joe.flint@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 27, 2017 02:47 ET (06:47 GMT)