No, Sony Is Not About To Sell Rights To 'Spider-Man'

Today you may be seeing rumors that Sony is going to sell off rights to Spider-Man. It's all based on six degrees of uninformed speculation, which is to say: don't believe it for a second. The point of the real conversation going on is that the Sony Entertainment division — music and movies, in other words — is the profitable arm of the company, and has been propping up Sony as a whole while the electronics divisions lose money.

That being the case, why would the company even think of selling the character that is among its most reliable earners? Answer: it would not. You might want to see Marvel Studios produce an Avengers 2 that features Spider-Man, but it ain't happening. Not without a very unlikely partnership with Sony, at least. Details below.

Here's the deal: mega-investor Daniel Loeb owns a big chunk of Sony through the hedge fund he manages. He has written a letter to Sony's current chief, Kaz Hirai, urging Sony to sell a 15-20% public stake in Sony's entertainment division. (He's actually urging a slightly different type of sale, but for the purposes of streamlining I'll generalize to "public offering.") What he's talking about is a public offering of some stock, to raise capital and make the division more valuable by proving that people think it is valuable.

The thing that spurred conversation today is that Kaz Hirai said the Sony board is considering Loeb's advice. If they went forward with such a plan, that would turn Sony Entertainment into a more distinct, separate division of Sony. But it would not see any assets leaving the company as a whole.

At no place in Loeb's letter does he suggest selling off Sony assets such as Spider-Man, Resident Evil, or distribution rights to James Bond. That would be insanely rash. Selling off the assets of a profitable division is not a way to increase its value; it would be a fire sale.

Take a moment to read the letter from Loeb or peruse a couple of Financial Times articles (1, 2 — Google the article titles that come up, if you can't see the full text at first) and you'll quickly realize that selling Spider-Man, or Beyonce, or Adele, or distribution rights to Bond, isn't something that is on the table.

Or you can believe Sony Pictures head Amy Pascal, who in a phone conversation with Harry Knowles today said Sony will never ever (under her leadership) think of getting rid of Spider-Man.