Dan Loeb is famous for his harsh criticism of corporate executives, usually delivered in stinging letters, but now he's getting blowback from the Hollywood star most likely to play Loeb in a biopic: George Clooney.
In an interview with Deadline, Clooney questioned Loeb's authority to question Sony executives, saying Loeb "knows nothing about our business." He went on to say: "How any hedge fund guy can call for responsibility is beyond me, because if you look at those guys, there is no conscience at work."
Clooney called Loeb a "carpetbagger," adding, "It's crazy he has weight in this conversation at all." Clooney took particular issue with Loeb's agitating for Sony to develop more successful big-budget films. In a letter to Third Point investors from July 29, Loeb said, "From a creative point of view, we are concerned about Entertainment's 2014 and 2015 slate, which lacks lucrative 'tent pole' franchises." Clooney is just finishing production on The Monuments Men, a World War II drama that is decidedly an Oscar contender, not a tentpole.
Loeb's fund Third Point acquired a stake in Sony in May that is now 6.9 percent of the company and has been pushing the Japanese conglomerate to consider a breakup, including selling 20 percent of its entertainment business. Loeb said in his July 29 investor letter that Sony's two "highly-touted big budget summer film releases — After Earth and White House Down — bombed spectacularly at the box office." Loeb wrote that these two failed blockbusters were evidence that "Entertainment's culture is characterized by a complete lack of accountability" and "that Entertainment's U.S.-based business is being ineffectively overseen."
While Loeb does jump from sector to sector and loudly makes his opinion known at the companies he invests in, he does have quite the track record to back him up. His recently closed out investment in Yahoo! netted Third Point some $600 million. That's a franchise to build around.
Matthew Zeitlin is a business reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Zeitlin reports on Wall Street and big banks.
Contact Matthew Zeitlin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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