Daniel S. Loeb has been steadily ratcheting up his critique of Sony in recent days. But the conglomerate found a defender in a somewhat unlikely source: George Clooney.
The actor and producer took time during an interview with Deadline Hollywood — ostensibly to discuss his coming movie, "The Monuments Men" — to inveigh against the activist shareholder and his campaign against Sony.
Since unveiling a stake in Sony that is now about 7 percent, Mr. Loeb sharpened the tone of his critique of Sony, which he is pressing to separate its entertainment arm from its electronics business and to streamline its operations. In the latest investor letter sent by his hedge fund, Third Point, the acid-tongued investor wrote: "Given entertainment's perpetual underperformance, perhaps Sony's reluctance to discuss it candidly stems from (understandable) embarrassment."
It's worth noting that Sony backs Mr. Clooney's production shop. But the Oscar winner unleashed a torrent of criticism on the hedge fund manager, accusing him of not understanding the movie business. We've picked out some of the choicest comments below.
- "I've been reading a lot about Daniel Loeb, a hedge fund guy who describes himself as an activist but who knows nothing about our business, and he is looking to take scalps at Sony because two movies in a row underperformed? When does the clock stop and start for him at Sony? Why didn't he include 'Skyfall,' the 007 movie that grossed a billion dollars, or 'Zero Dark Thirty' or 'Django Unchained?'"
- "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. It is a business that is only about creating wealth, where when they fail, they get bailed out and where nobody gets fired. A guy from a hedge fund entity is the single least qualified person to be making these kinds of judgments, and he is dangerous to our industry."
- "What he's doing is scaring studios and pushing them to make decisions from a place of fear. Why is he buying stock like crazy if he's so down on things? He's trying to manipulate the market."
- "If guys like this are given any weight because they've bought stock and suddenly feel they can tell us how to do our business — one he knows nothing about — this does great damage that trickles down. The board of directors starts saying, 'Wait a minute. What guarantee do you have that this movie makes money?'"
- "Hedge fund guys do not create jobs, and we do."
A spokeswoman for Mr. Loeb declined to comment.