Industry experts are speculating Sony's film and television assets could be headed for sale following news that Kaz Hirai will step down from his position of Chief Executive, where he'll be replaced by Chief Financial Officer Kenichiro Yoshida.
Yoshida is reportedly "not too keen on the entertainment business," one industry observer told Deadline, leading to speculation Sony is "ready for a sale."
Sony's stock closed at $51.99 Friday, up 6%, amid speculation the changing of the guard might open the door to a potential sale of the company's entertainment assets, which includes coveted big screen IPs like Spider-Man and Ghostbusters.
Studio insiders have reported no evidence of a shifting corporate strategy under Hirai's No. 2, according to Deadline, who report Sony will continue to "look for opportunities to grow its film and television business, whether through acquisition or merger."
"There's been no discussion of a sale," the site adds.
Yoshida is described as a numbers guy with a cautious outlook, and once said he sees Sony as a technology company that should keep consumer electronics at its forefront.
The company is best known for producing the Playstation gaming system and a wide variety of electronics, including televisions, Blu-ray players, and cameras.
The deal sees Marvel Studios producing the Spider-Man movies, which are paid for and distributed by Sony Pictures, and allows Spider-Man (Tom Holland) to exist and participate in Marvel Studios' shared Marvel Cinematic Universe, home to blockbuster franchises like The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy.
Disney was able to include Spider-Man in Avengers: Infinity War, out in May, under the deal without Sony's involvement.
Sony retains the rights to the Spider-Man character, effectively loaning him out to Marvel Studios, whose track record has produced nearly 20 #1 blockbuster hits since the studio launched with 2008's Iron Man.
The Japanese corporation will launch their own spin on a cinematic universe — officially dubbed the "Sony Marvel Universe" — this October with Venom, starring Tom Hardy as the long-time Spider-Man villain-slash-anti-hero.
Though the universes were initially believed separate, recent rumors point to Holland making a cameo appearance in Venom — suggesting the Sony Marvel Universe is at least linked to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, albeit without Marvel Studios' involvement.
Sony also has Silver and Black, starring Spider-Man supporting characters Silver Sable and Black Cat, readied for a March 5 shooting start.
The studio caught a break with Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart-starrer Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, a blockbuster hit that has earned over $825 million worldwide since its December 20 release. More than a month after its debut, Jumanji sits at #2 at the box office.
The family-friendly action comedy proved so successful Sony Chairman Tom Rothman wants to pit its sequel against Star Wars: Episode IX in 2019.
Jumanji comes after a string of Sony failures: neither The Emoji Movie nor The Dark Tower caught on with audiences late last summer.
Sony's infamous Ghostbusters reboot similarly failed to excite moviegoers in blockbuster season back in 2016, proving a flop with just $229 million worldwide despite its iconic IP, which would likely prove usable by a competing studio.
Aside from Spider-Man and Ghostbusters — and now Jumanji — Sony is also home to the Men in Black films as well as franchises Underworld, Resident Evil, Smurfs, Hotel Transylvania, and Goosebumps.1comments
Disney, who recently agreed to purchase 21st Century Fox's film and television assets in a landmark $52.4 billion dollar deal, would be the favorite to absorb Sony, should they sell; but the Disney company is already facing opposition over the Fox merger that could take between 12 and 18 months.
If Sony were to ease out of the film and television business, they could even sell off their properties à la carte — allowing Disney-owned Marvel Studios to take complete control over the Spider-Man live-action rights.