SONY PICTURES TOUTS OVERHAUL : MOVE HERALDED BY ENTERTAINMENT COMPANY'S PRESIDENT AS TURNING POINT.
After seven years of financial chaos and mismanagement at Sony Pictures Entertainment, Sony Corp. President Nobuyuki Idei said Tuesday that a newly completed overhaul at the entertainment company marked a turning point for Sony that could lead eventually to a public stock sale.
Idei said the company had no plans to sell its entertainment division, which includes Columbia and Tristar studios. But he said he would consider a public offering of Sony's entertainment assets in the future, including its music division.
``I don't deny our intention to make the company public, but I can't tell you when it will be,'' Idei said. Sony Pictures Entertainment ``is and will be a very important part of our business,'' he added.
Idei, 58, who took over Sony 18 months ago, and whose background was in the company's consumer products marketing, made his comments to about 20 reporters in a conference room across the street from Sony Studios in Culver City.
Idei brushed aside questions about the profligate spending by the company's American executives that has marked Sony's troubled voyage into Hollywood.
He said his decision to appoint John Calley, a respected film studio executive, to run Sony's entertainment division was the prime example of what he had learned from the company's sour experience in Hollywood.
``I have learned a lot,'' Idei said. ``I've picked John Calley.''
Idei confirmed reports that Sony had retained the investment bank CS First Boston as an adviser on future strategy.
``In order to enhance our business we need to have advice from outsiders,'' he said. ``Sony is a $50 billion company. It's natural to have a relationship with investment banks.''
Idei was flanked by his new team at the studio: Calley, 66, who was recently named president and chief operating officer of Sony Pictures Entertainment; Masayuki Nozoe, 47, a Sony marketing and electronics expert and the first Japanese executive in a top position inside the studio; Jeff Sagansky, a former television executive who was an executive vice president at Sony's U.S. operations and is now co-president at the entertainment division; and Bob Wynne, executive vice president of Sony Pictures Entertainment, who oversees legal affairs.
Calley, the former president of United Artists and a top executive at Warner Bros. in the 1970s, said the entertainment division's problems had been somewhat exaggerated and that other studios were also mismanaged.
``If you scan every major studio in our town there'll be anecdotal material to curl your hair,'' he said.
Since 1989, when it purchased Columbia Studios and Tristar, Sony has spent at least $7 billion on its Hollywood studios. Two years ago Sony absorbed a $3.2 billion write-off because of its failures in Hollywood.
Many of Sony's top U.S. executives - including Michael P. Schulhof, head of Sony's American operations - have since been fired but with severance packages of up to $20 million.
Sony shares rose 50 yen, to 7,050, in Tokyo trading.
Photo: (Color) IDEI