Sony Names Former Fox Executive Vinciquerra to Lead Studio

  • Struggling film division to rely on TV veteran for turnaround
  • TV unit, with no big U.S. network, needs help adapting

Sony Corp. named Tony Vinciquerra, a former Fox TV executive, to lead its struggling film studio and help its television business adapt to a changing industry.

Vinciquerra will report to Sony Chief Executive Officer Kazuo Hirai, according to a statement Thursday. He replaces Michael Lynton, who said in January he’d step down.

Vinciquerra will be tasked with reinvigorating Culver City, California-based Sony Pictures Entertainment, which has suffered a string of box-office flops and in January took a $1 billion charge to write down the value of its movie business. Attempts to find new franchise properties to compete with Walt Disney Co. and Warner Bros. have foundered, with one high-profile example being an all-female revival of comedy “Ghostbusters.”

Even though one of the top tasks facing the new chief will be to turn around the film business, Sony had been seeking an executive with broad experience, not someone known as a movie mogul. Vinciquerra, with his many corporate roles across media, filled that requirement.

Vinciquerra was chairman of Fox Networks Group from 2008 to 2011, overseeing the Fox broadcast network and cable channels like FX. He is a senior adviser to TPG, the private equity group, and is on the boards of Pandora Media Inc., Qualcomm Inc. and film company STX Entertainment.

This year Sony Pictures has slipped to seventh place at the North American box office, overtaken by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. and slipping out of the top six slots usually held by the major Hollywood studios. A Marvel Entertainment-produced reboot of its “Spider-Man” series, due out in July, could bring better results. Other high-profile releases this year are “The Dark Tower,” “The Emoji Movie” and “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.”

One question is whether Sony will keep its distribution agreement with the producers of the James Bond film franchise. It has released the last four movies but studios are competing for the next deal.

The studio has fared better in television, Vinciquerra’s area of expertise. It produces a wide variety of programs, from “Better Call Saul” and “Kevin Can Wait” to “Jeopardy!” and “Days of Our Lives.” But there are challenges in that business, too. Unlike other big studios, Sony doesn’t own a major TV network in the U.S., and has to sell its shows to rivals who are increasingly seeking to produce more programming in-house.

Sony Pictures Entertainment, including the film and TV divisions, swung to a loss last fiscal year of 80.5 billion yen ($719 million) from an operating profit of 38.5 billion yen the year earlier.

Unlike Lynton, Vinciquerra won’t oversee Sony’s music businesses, which are run by Rob Stringer.

The appointment fills the second of two studio chief roles that were vacant this year. Paramount appointed Fox veteran Jim Gianopulos in March to lead its film studio, replacing Brad Grey. Stacey Snider was promoted to replace Gianopulos at Fox last year.

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