Sony Entertainment's CEO Michael Lynton to step down, focus on Snap responsibilities

The Sony Cooperation logo is seen at a trade fair in Yokohama, Japan, February 25, 2016.
Thomas Peter | Reuters

Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton will step down in February to focus on his chairman position at Snap ahead of its upcoming IPO, as part of broader changes in the entertainment giant's structure, Sony said on Friday.

Lynton — who steered the company for more than a decade — will stay co-CEO for the next six months, then will focus on his chairmanship of Snap. The parent of augmented reality and messaging app Snapchat as it heads toward a public offering.

Sony Pictures Entertainment, also led by Lynton, was roiled more than two years ago after a cyberattack revealed internal emails and created backlash around the release of a movie spoofing North Korea. The company also rejected a deal from hedge fund Third Point to spin off its entertainment business in 2013, amid criticisms that Sony's electronics arm was failing to innovate.

Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai will help Lynton run Sony Pictures as the Japanese electronics giant searches for a replacement.

"As some of you are already aware, I have been involved with Snapchat since its early days. Given Snapchat's growth – and my growing role and responsibilities in it – I recently determined that the time was right to make a change," Lynton wrote in a note to Sony employees.

"I leave Sony with great pride in all we have accomplished together – from our greatest victories to overcoming our biggest challenges."

The news was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

It comes amid "broad changes" and a new management team Sony has assembled over the last few years, especially within the music business.

Snap's IPO is expected as soon as March and could be valued at $25 billion, above its most recent valuation of $17.81 billion, the Journal reported late last year. Used daily by 150 million users, the teen-focused app has faced challenges stacking up against advertising darlings Facebook and Google.

Lynton is not expected to keep a management role at Snap, the New York Times reported. Snapchat did not immediately reply to CNBC's request for comment.

Sony has had hits like "The Social Network" and "American Hustle" over Lynton's tenure, but is now in a "turnaround" period, Hirai said in a statement.

"The entertainment industry continues to undergo some of the most transformative changes it has ever seen, and Michael's vast experience and expertise in the entertainment and media space has been invaluable in charting a path forward through this new landscape," Hirai said.