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Leaked Emails Show Lions Gate Tried Merger with Sony

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Movie maker Lions Gate Entertainment Corp executives tried to meet last summer with Sony Corp CEO Kazuo Hirai to discuss a possible merger or acquisition, according to emails found in documents stolen by hackers, Reuters said on December 17.

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

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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, the report said.

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, ” according to the report

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.

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, the report said.

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.”

Sony CEO Lynton is the son of German Jewish émigrés who fled to Holland when the Nazis came to power in the 1930s.

Loeb, a tycoon who grew up in Santa Monica, is engaged in various philanthropic activities with a Jewish bent, according to a November 2013 report in the Jewish Daily Forward.



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