Sony’s secret Internet weapon

Mar 5, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Age: 37.
Title: President of Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment, the operating unit that aligns SPE’s digital production with its online content and game services to deliver next-generation broadband entertainment.
Also oversees: SPE’s digital production and online assets, which include Sony Pictures Imageworks, Sony Online Entertainment and Columbia TriStar Interactive.
When Yair Landau was named president of Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment in March 2000, he said his initial plan included building brands for Sony’s assets in narrowband and broadband and that he intended to move the company toward the world of new media.
Certainly, in one short year, Mr. Landau has made significant progress toward meeting those goals. In December, he even hinted that the company was prepared to launch by next summer a project that would allow consumers to download movies through their broadband connections. If studios don’t do it themselves, “Then you’re opening it up to someone else to aggregate the services,” Mr. Landau said. “We have the benefit of seeing what happened to the music companies, and we want to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
Some say Mr. Landau’s success in moving Sony in the digital direction is due to the support he has from Sony President Mel Harris-an advantage not enjoyed by all. Others say he is simply a savvy businessman who understands the technical operation and has a knack for making money.
Says one Sony executive who works with Mr. Landau closely but who prefers not to be quoted by name: “I think he represents a new breed of entertainment executive who is both creative and pragmatic. He is creative in the sense of being reasonably entrepreneurial, which is certainly a creative endeavor. At the same time, he has a strong business background and brings a sense of fiscal responsibility to the enterprise. At the end of the day, he provides a business framework in which creative people can operate comfortably.”
Mr. Landau was born in Israel but raised first in Toronto and then Chicago, where he was a 1985 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Chicago. After college, worked as a financial analyst in the corporate finance department of Kidder, Peabody & Co. in Chicago.
In 1989, he earned an MBA degree from Stanford University Graduate School of Business. Then he went to work for the investment banking firm Wasserstein Parella & Co. in New York, specializing in mergers and acquisitions. That’s where Sony found him. In May 1991, Mr. Landau joined Sony Pictures Entertainment as director, financial planning and analysis, and was subsequently promoted to vice president of business planning for Sony Pictures Entertainment’s motion picture operations.
Yuki Nozoe, Sony Picture Entertainment’s co-president, who oversees the division Mr. Landau heads, said Landau brings the kind of expertise that the company needs. “Yair has done much to make our Internet strategy and investments happen, and his experience serves us well.”
Mr. Landau is married, has two children and lives in Los Angeles. He’s also an avid sports fan whose favorite teams are the St. Louis Rams and the Los Angeles Lakers.