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Sony Executive Exodus: CEO Michael Lynton Flexes His Muscle

Departures of Steve Mosko and Doug Belgrad are power moves by a usually mild-mannered mogul

With the departure of two top executives in 24 hours, Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton is asserting control in a way he hasn’t before or since the 2014 hack of his entertainment conglomerate.

The news on Wednesday that Sony Pictures Television Chairman Steve Mosko was out of the studio sent shock waves around Hollywood, followed quickly by the exit of Sony Motion Picture Group President Doug Belgrad on Thursday.

The moves signaled a power play uncharacteristic of the mild-mannered CEO and indicated a desire to pull his profitable TV division closer and remove the hard-charging Mosko, who many see as an architect of the division’s success.

Mosko has been long considered one of the most accomplished executives in the TV industry, racking up hits like “The Blacklist,” “Shark Tank” and “Better Call Saul.” But there was no love lost between the brash, salesman style of Mosko and the cerebral manner of Lynton.

Individuals with knowledge of their relationship say that the two rarely met in person. Mosko considered Lynton disconnected from the TV business despite its importance at Sony, while Lynton may well have believed that Mosko — however accomplished — was simply not on his team.

“This is Michael leaning in and pulling TV closer. It’s his desire to flatten out the company,” another individual with knowledge of the company told TheWrap.

A studio insider told TheWrap that Mosko’s contract — up at the end of the year — was not being renewed, underscoring the fact that Mosko’s exit was not his choice. At the Paley Center on Thursday afternoon, Mosko said that his deaprture had been “in the works” for some time, but would not elaborate.

Mosko had to demand a chairman title comparable to film boss Amy Pascal‘s (and later Tom Rothman‘s). He finally won the promotion last year, an oversight that continued to irk the ambitious executive.

Sony TV is responsible for huge hits like Showtime’s “Masters of Sex,” Starz’ “Outlander” and Netflix’s “Bloodline” — an impressive feat considering the company does not have a broadcast network to distribute its productions.

Belgrad’s exit takes a high-priced executive out of the mix ahead of what is likely to be a middling summer at the box office for Sony. The studio was second-to-last-place in market share last year, and is currently last for 2016, behind perpetual underperformer Paramount.

Belgrad, 50, is a beloved studio veteran of 27 years, who also seemed anchored in the No. 2 position under Rothman, who was brought in last year to succeed Pascal as chairman of Sony Motion Picture Group.

Belgrad’s departure had been in the works for some time, one individual close to the organization said.

“Doug has planned to go out on his own and start his own company for a while, but he agreed to work with Tom Rothman to firm up the 2016-2017 slate,” the insider said.

Belgrad was an internal favorite to succeed Pascal. Mike De Luca, former Sony President of Production, was also on a short list but departed for an overall deal at Universal after Rothman landed the job. Belgrad is following a similar path.

A second individual familiar with the departures said Belgrad will leave a morale-sapping void at the studio since he is is extremely bright and much beloved.

“I suspect the exodus of the top talent will continue,” that individual told TheWrap.

Belgrad will remain on the lot, per the studio insider, and is still attached to several upcoming films and possible franchises including “Ghostbusters,” “The Magnificent Seven” and December’s Jennifer Lawrence-Chris Pratt space romance “Passengers.” They also had no knowledge of further changes at the executive level.