The Sony leak is seriously the hack that keeps on giving. Now we have word that the head of corporate communications for the entertainment company, Charles Sipkins, lost his job shortly after emails calling for his dismissal passed between Bernie Weinraub, a former New York Times reporter, Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment and Weinraub’s wife, and Sony’s HR head George Rose.
According to Bloomberg, Pascal was left off of a roundtable hosted by The Hollywood Reporter that featured all of the heads of the major movie companies. Weinraub sent an email to Pascal on November 15 saying, “I would fire your PR guy immediately. Or at least tell him you’re not going to deal with him anymore.” Pascal forwarded that email to Rose who agreed. Six days later, Sipkins was out of a $600,000-per-year job.
Sony, of course, hasn’t commented on this citing the need for discretion in “personnel matters.” Pascal denied that the emails had anything to do with Sipkins’ dismissal. Sipkins didn’t comment.
THR says the exclusion was due to a shifting lineup and there was nothing personal directed at Sony and its execs.
While there might have been other reasons for Sipkins’ redundancy, it’s hard not to put two-and-two together on this one. Honestly, this would be a good reason for, not firing the guy, but having a talk with him about the importance of getting Pascal or other company execs into events like this. It gives the perfect opportunity for thought leadership and brand promotion.
But at this point, Pascal — and Sony — have bigger problems. The leak also revealed some racially insensitive emails in which Pascal and producer Scott Rudin said President Obama probably likes movies like Django Unchained and others with largely Black casts and crews. They’ve both apologized, but the offensive remarks are still causing backlash.
And then another exec sent an email calling Kevin Hart, the star of one of the company’s upcoming movies, a “whore” for asking for more money to promote a previous Sony film he was involved with on social media. Hart responded in a pretty dignified way on his Instagram page. “I OWN MY BRAND… I MAKE SMART DECISIONS FOR MY BRAND… I PROTECT MY BRAND,” he said. (All caps his.)
The AP is questioning whether Pascal specifically can “survive” these continuous and very damaging leaks. “I’d be surprised if my entire legacy was based on the leak of the email exchange,” she told the news outlet, referring specifically to the Obama emails. And Michael Levine, a PR specialist, says that companies tend to be “forgiving” when the person in the cross hairs makes money for the company.
Pascal actually contacted Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson in an attempt to be “proactive” about “accepting responsibility” for her comments. Sipkins had a strong background in crisis communications, which would probably come in handy right about now.