Sony film boss Amy Pascal steps down in wake of online leaks

Four-year production deal at studio for departing executive

Hollywood executive Amy Pascal is resigning as co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment for a new role at the studio in the wake of an embarrassing hack in which her private emails were leaked online.

Ms Pascal's removal comes in the fallout from last year's cyber attack, one of the worst in corporate history. The hack led to the publication of her email conversations with top Hollywood figures, as well as racially charged jokes in an exchange with producer Scott Rudin about the kind of films that Barack Obama might like.

While stepping down from her senior role at the studio, Ms Pascal is not being ousted. Sony said that she will launch "a major new production venture" at the studio, based in Culver City, California, in May.

Her move to a separate production unit is typical of departing studio bosses. Under a four-year deal, she will be a producer on some of the studio's biggest movies, among them the new Ghostbusters film and future instalments in the Amazing Spider-Man series.

"I have spent almost my entire professional life at Sony Pictures and I am energised to be starting this new chapter based at the company I call home," she said. "I have always wanted to be a producer."

Ms Pascal’s private emails were among a trove of sensitive information leaked by a group calling itself “Guardians of Peace” in daily online drops of material stolen during the massive security breach.

The Japanese-owned company was attacked for producing the comedy The Interview starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, which ridiculed the North Korea dictator Kim Jong-un. The US government pointed the finger of blame at North Korean hackers.

One of Hollywood's longest- serving studio heads and most senior female executives, Ms Pascal began her career at Sony in 1988 and was responsible for some of its biggest box-office hits, including the Spider-Man series, the highest- grossing superhero franchise.

The studio banked big successes by making films for stars such as Will Smith and Adam Sandler at the height of their popularity.

Bond movies

Among the movies produced and distributed by Sony during Ms Pascal's tenure are the three most recent James Bond films, including Skyfall, which became the first in the series to earn more than $1 billion.

"I am happy to say that Amy's decision is not the end of her relationship with the studio but the start of a new and exciting chapter in her extraordinary career that promises to be mutually beneficial," said Sony Pictures chief executive Michael Lynton.

Throughout the two-month hacking controversy, Ms Pascal had tried to present a brave front, appearing at the Los Angeles premiere of The Interview and briefing staff at meetings about the hack.

Shares in Sony rose on the New York Stock Exchange following the management reshuffle.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent