By Mary Milliken and Lisa Richwine
Amy Pascal will step down as co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment after hackers angry about a movie she championed mocking North Korea’s dictator exposed a raft of embarrassing emails between Pascal and other Hollywood figures.
Pascal, one of the most powerful women executives in Hollywood, had kept a low profile since her emails were leaked by hackers and widely reported by media, particularly one in which she made racially insensitive remarks about President Barack Obama’s taste in films. She later apologised.
Sony Pictures said Pascal will step down from her current post in May to launch her own production venture on the studio lot.
Sony Pictures Chief Executive and Chairman Michael Lynton told Reuters that the emails leaked late last year played no role in his and Pascal’s decision not to renew her contract in March 2015.
The entertainment arm of Sony Corp was victim of the most destructive cyberattack on a private company on US soil.
The US government has blamed the hack on North Korea after the reclusive nation was angered by a Sony comedy The Interview, which depicts the fictional assassination of leader Kim Jong Un.
Pascal had greenlighted the movie, which opened in limited release after the studio reversed a decision, condemned by Obama, to cancel its theatrical release.
Pascal, who joined Sony’s Columbia Pictures in 1988, said in a statement that she and Lynton had been discussing her transition to producer for “quite some time.”
“As the slate for the next 2 years has come together, it felt like the right time to transition into this new role,” Pascal said in a statement from the company, adding “I am leaving the studio in great hands.”
Sony did not immediately disclose who would be filling her post.
Pascal’s new production venture will focus on film, television and theater, the studio said. As part of a four-year agreement, Sony Pictures will finance Pascal’s venture and retain distribution rights to films financed.