Sony is shaking up the leadership structure of its US entertainment businesses in preparation for Sir Howard Stringer's handover as chairman and chief executive to Kazuo Hirai. The reshuffle will hand more power to Michael Lynton, chairman and chief executive of Sony Pictures Entertainment, and to Nicole Seligman, the Japanese group's general counsel.
Both Mr Lynton and Ms Seligman are close allies of Sir Howard.
The moves come as US entertainment insiders see power shifting to Tokyo. Sir Howard came from the entertainment division, running Sony Corporation of America before his 2005 promotion to run the whole company, but Mr Hirai is expected to spend more time focusing on trying to restore profitability in the lossmaking core electronics business in Japan.
Sony's music businesses and film and TV studio have been among its few profitable divisions in recent years, but some in the US still fear a spin-off or sale that could leave the entertainment companies vulnerable to a takeover.
A Sony spokesman declined to comment and final details of the appointments, expected to be announced by Mr Hirai early next week, could change, people familiar with the details cautioned.
However, Mr Lynton is expected to add the title of chief executive of SCA to his responsibilities at the group's film and TV studio. His operational partnership with Amy Pascal, co-chairman of SPE, is not expected to change, insiders said, but Ms Pascal will report to Mr Lynton, who will remain in Los Angeles.
The reshuffle is also expected to expand the US role of Ms Seligman, general counsel and executive vice president of Sony, who looks likely to add the title of president of SCA, overseeing corporate functions such as its legal and communications teams. She is expected to shuttle between Tokyo and New York.
Mr Lynton will also assume oversight of Sony Music, the recorded music division led by Doug Morris, and Sony ATV, the group's music publishing joint venture with Michael Jackson's estate, led by Marty Bandier. However, he is not expected to play a high-profile operational role in the music businesses. "It's more about who presents the budget to Tokyo," said one person familiar with the plan.
Mr Bandier, 70, signed a contract extension this week that is expected to keep him at the company for four years, to oversee the integration of a deal announced late last year in which a Sony-led consortium plans to buy EMI's music publishing business.
Rob Wiesenthal, executive vice president and chief financial officer of SCA, is expected to take a senior operational role at Sony ATV, having engineered the EMI deal which could make it the world's largest music publisher. The acquisition is awaiting approval from competition regulators in Washington and Brussels.