Accessibility links

Lions Gate Tried to Discuss Merger with Sony, Leaked Emails Show

  • Reuters

Sony Pictures Entertainment headquarters in Culver City, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014.

Sony Pictures Entertainment headquarters in Culver City, Calif. on Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014.

Movie maker Lions Gate Entertainment Corp executives last summer tried to meet with Sony Corp CEO Kazuo Hirai to discuss a possible merger or acquisition, according to emails found in documents stolen by hackers.

Hirai eventually declined a meeting although he expressed interest in possible cooperation on operational matters, the documents showed.

Daniel Loeb, an investor who was pushing Sony to partially spin off its entertainment business, told Sony Corp of America President Nicole Seligman that Lions Gate executives wanted to meet with Hirai, according to an Aug. 20 email from Seligman to Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton.

Loeb told Seligman that the Lions Gate executives wanted “to toss around ideas about a possible merger or acquisition,” according to the email. Lynton responded later that day that it would be “very disruptive” if the “lionsgate stuff gets out.”

Representatives for Sony and Lions Gate declined to comment. Loeb did not respond to a request for comment.

Sony is reeling from disclosures in documents released by the hackers, which have exposed internal discussions key to the company's future to public scrutiny. Reuters has not been able to verify the authenticity of the documents.

The exchange about Lions Gate sheds light on the strategies of two of Hollywood's biggest studios. Lions Gate is the producer of “The Hunger Games” movie franchise and TV shows including “Mad Men” and “Orange is the New Black” on Netflix.

Sony, the studio behind the James Bond and Spider-Man franchises, was under pressure from Loeb at the time to improve profitability. Loeb revealed in October that his Third Point hedge fund had sold its stake in Sony.

On Sept. 6, Lions Gate Vice Chairman Michael Burns in an email to Hirai and Seligman suggested a meeting, the documents showed. “We remain very intrigued with the possibility of working together,” Burns wrote.

Hirai declined a meeting in a Sept. 18 reply, although he suggested Burns contact Lynton or Seligman about other opportunities.

“Given our entertainment business strategy, I don't believe a meeting with me would be fruitful or a good use of your time,” he wrote. “However, we are always interested in the possibility of smart collaboration between studios at the operational level.”