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Sony Pictures Chief Alan Levine Resigns

October 3, 1996 GMT

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The dismal performance of Sony Corp.’s film studios has claimed yet another victim: Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. President Alan J. Levine resigned Wednesday.

John Calley, a veteran studio executive and currently head of United Artists, is in negotiations to lead a new management team Sony is creating for its entertainment division, sources said.

A Sony Corp. spokeswoman confirmed negotiations with Calley are taking place but declined further comment.

Levine, chief operating officer of Sony Pictures since 1994, has agreed to stay on for a brief transitional period, Sony Corp. said in a statement that did not name his successor.

Sony, the giant Japanese electronics firm which bought the studio in 1989, has struggled to find executives to run its film divisions with consistent success.

Last month, Mark Canton was ousted as chairman of Sony’s Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Cos., with vice chairman Lucy Fisher taking over his duties.

A summer of flops, including ``The Cable Guy,″ for which Jim Carrey walked away with $20 million, sealed Canton’s fate and raised speculation that Levine’s days were numbered.

His choice to replace Canton reportedly was quashed by Nobuyuki Idei, Sony’s president and chief operating officer, in yet another omen for Levine.

Levine’s departure marks the end of an era: An entertainment lawyer, Levine was brought into the Sony fold in 1989 by Peter Guber and Jon Peters, then newly installed as heads of Columbia Pictures Entertainment.

It was Levine who had negotiated the lucrative sale of Guber Peters Entertainment Co., the pair’s production company, to Sony.

Peters was eased out early on, reportedly with Levine’s help. In 1994, Guber resigned as Sony Pictures chairman after guiding the movie company through five uneven years that included hits like ``Sleepless in Seattle″ and misses such as ``The Last Action Hero.″

Levine inherited a troubled company, taking over in late 1994 shortly before parent company Sony Corp. reported a $3.2 billion second-quarter loss, including a $510 million write-off related to canceled movie projects and contract settlements.

Under Levine, spending was cut and jobs eliminated as Sony combined marketing, production and distribution for its film divisions Columbia and TriStar, now known as a combined company.

In a statement, Idei called Levine ``instrumental in a complex transition and restructuring,″ wishing him luck in future endeavors.