Sony's largest investor calls for break-up

Hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb suggests splitting Sony Entertainment from Sony Electronics, says they're obscuring each other's worth

Last week, Sony announced a return to profitability in its full-year financial results, but that wasn't enough to please one of its largest shareholders. As reported by the New York Times, hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb is calling on Sony to split up its business.

Loeb is the CEO of Third Point, LLC, which claims to be Sony's single largest investor, controlling more than $1.1 billion worth of the electronics giant's shares, or about 6.5% of the company. In a letter hand-delivered to Sony CEO Kaz Hirai today, Loeb called for Sony to "partially spin-off" its Sony Entertainment business, which covers music publishing, cable networks, and production of movies and TV shows. That would leave behind Sony Electronics, which includes the PlayStation business, as well as cameras, smartphones, and TVs.

"Like many conglomerates we have invested in previously, Sony has two strong businesses facing different challenges side by side, each obscuring the other's true worth," Loeb explained in the letter.

Loeb proposed letting existing Sony investors own Sony Entertainment more directly, offering them subscription rights rather than holding a traditional spin-off or public offering. The move would give Sony an injection of capital while ensuring shareholders' economic interests are protected, Loeb said. The hedge fund manager also offered to take a more hands-on approach to enact his plan.

"Beyond Third Point's willingness to help facilitate a public offering for Sony Entertainment, we offer our assistance to implement our proposal and would gladly accept a seat on Sony's Board of Directors," Loeb said.

A Sony representative told the Times that the company welcomes investments and welcomes constructive dialogue with shareholders, but noted that Hirai has previously asserted Sony Entertainment is not for sale.

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Latest comments (9)

Caleb Hale Journalist 9 years ago
I might be wrong on this, but it seems if Sony moves to separate its entertainment and electronic platforms it would make integration on the PlayStation a little more difficult than necessary. Wouldn't that be a bizarre move, considering Sony's main competitor in gaming consoles, Microsoft, is moving to integrate more into the entertainment/gaming space?
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Nick Burcombe CEO & Co Founder, Playrise Digital Ltd.9 years ago
I would love to see 'Playstation' more as a software brand and go cross platform. Mid-term it can still lead with the premium hardware experience, but hopefully with companion apps that support the premium software - I'd like that. I could B-Spec mode GT6 on my mobile device (any platform) - arrive home and reap the rewards on my PS4 maybe....or I can train up Kratos or buy weapons for him and develop his skills when I'm out and about - and then dominate the PS4 game at home. I'd love to see more of this. I wish the hardware war would just vanish eventually - after all you don't buy a TV that only plays Halo but not Killzone do you - it's the content that's king and delivery/platform will hopefully become irrelevant as internet speed get faster. Ok, I'm still talking years away, but super-fast cloud gaming is eventually where I hope we end up and then it's a battle for loyalty of hearts and minds and probably subscriptions and of course micro-transactions. I'd like to think this is where mass-adopted free-to-play will make sense in premiumland.
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Private Industry 9 years ago
I think its more advantageous for the industry to have multiple consoles instead of one box that plays them all. Competition drives hardware improvement and innovation. Having only one device or service if it is cloud gaming would end up in less improvements and innovation in my opinion.
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Paul Jace Merchandiser 9 years ago
I agree with Werner. The more competition the better the options/offerings. It also means we'll get price drops and other competitive pricing more often.
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Daniel Hill Marketing and Business Development 9 years ago
I kind of agree. The theory that multiple platform holders leads to innovation and progress is a nice one, but in the current marketplace it's just that - a theory. I don't think it's strictly true of the current and next-gen offerings, from what we know. PS Move and Kinect were just Sony and Microsoft's versions of the Wii controller. From what we can tell, the new consoles will have similar processing power, sharing functionality, and no doubt a plethora of features designed to encourage the "one box in the living room" concept. Where's the innovation? Which of the big players is doing something genuinely different, in a real sense, that could legitimately be called "differentiation through innovation"? I guess Wii U would be the nearest, but even that console's features are variations on a theme. Every platform has its fans. At the moment, I'd be happy owning either a PS4 or a new Xbox. There's nothing I've heard about either that makes me say "Oh, that's really different to the other one, and I genuinely value that feature, so I'll buy X console, rather than Y". The only real difference I can see (from a gaming perspective - I'm not talking about either console's purported "entertainment credentials") is in the games - if I want to play Uncharted or Killzone, I'll buy a PS4. If I want to play Halo or Gears, I'll buy an Xbox.
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Sandy Lobban Founder, Noise Me Up9 years ago
I would tend to agree with this. Its difficult to be all things, to all people. They are getting eaten alive by people who do a few things well in each of the different sectors they operate in. However, if they did somehow manage to come up with an OS that could connect the two divisions, their devices, software and content then that would be a winner. That is some way off though.
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Private Industry 8 years ago
A bit early to speculate about what next gen does isn`t it Daniel? Sony had only a 2 hour conference and MS hasn`t said anything yet.

I would concur that it`s only a theory in the current console market, progress can come in many forms, t can be hardware, softwre or services. PSN+ would be a very good example how competition can lead to better services. Because of the competition from Xbox LIVE Sony decided to change certain things for PSN. In that case it was the introduction of PSN+ and "free" games every month. Thanks to Xbox LIVE people get next month games like Kingdoms of Alamur on PSN+.
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Jamie Knight International Editor in Chief, Playnation8 years ago
I'm not too sure that just being about the next gen consoles is what Loeb is hinting at? ( or stating, as no one here really read what was in the letter? )

to me it seems more of a kind of corporate buy-out that Loeb is proposing. ( and one more of the kind that you see when a particular company is under-performing and/or bleeding money from its shareholders ). This smells more of a proposed takeover and buy out than merely being about the Playstation 4 offering up EA games for 'free' if you keep up your subscription ( so, strictly speaking they are not 'actually' free, are they? )

The entertainment division has taken some drastic losses in recent years, ( and claiming a morale boosting 'victory' in sales at the end of the generation when the competition isn't even concentrating on their outgoing hardware any longer is, frankly, quite pitiful ). I think what Loeb may be warning of to Hirai, ( whether he states otherwise or not ), is that there are only going to be so many more failures in the Sony Entertainment portfolio that will be permitted before the financial backers demand a change of direction and management. ( and probably even ownership )

Sony Entertainment is having its rear-end handed to it on all fronts by a myriad of industry specific manufacturers and companies, whereas they continue to try and wear so many different hats its looking like they don't know which head to put them on any longer?

I fear for the entertainment division if the Ps4 does not come out of the gates firing on all cylinders, but as is the way with Sony it will have shoddy PR, holier-than-thou mismanagement issues and a ridiculous price tag which gets slashed six months later when they launch a slim version.

Samsung must be rubbing their hands in the wings if the rumours of interest from them holds any truth to it?
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Private Industry 8 years ago
Sony Entertainment doesn't include Sony Computer Entertainment because it's in the Sony electronics department and SCE is one of the parts that make profit in that division with a lot of the lose coming from the TV business.

Any investor that would want Sony to sell SCE doesnt know much about the company. Did the PS3 sell as good as the PS1 or PS2? No but it still sold over 80 million by now. Console market isn't about who sells more in first year.

I didn't find the price for the PS3 too high at launch. A stand alone BluRay player at time cost almost the same and if you would have had a 360 with all the add ons of bigger HDD, WiFi, HD-DVD, controller charger kit you payed more in total.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Private on 16th May 2013 11:26am

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