Activist investor Dan Loeb is used to criticizing companies, but now the tables have been turned by none other than George Clooney. The American actor told entertainment news site Deadline.com that Loeb was a “carpetbagger” who “does not create jobs” and is “dangerous to our industry.” Clooney was criticizing Loeb for his push to separate Sony’s entertainment division after buying a nearly 7% stake in the Japanese company.
A few days ago in his quarterly investor letter, Loeb blasted Sony’s movie unit for its flops, “White House Down” and “After Earth,” saying that’s another reason why that part of the business should be separated and then file for an IPO. In the meantime, he complimented the turnaround efforts at Sony’s electronic division. He also asked questions about the profitability of its films and videogame consoles during Sony’s earnings call yesterday. Sony has said it would study Loeb’s suggestions, but so far it seems the company is going to maintain the status quo.
Clooney, whose latest movie “The Monuments Men” involves Sony Pictures, said he’s been reading a lot about Loeb lately and accused the investor of trying to spread “a climate of fear” in which studios only make movies that will bring in lots of money. Clooney believes such a climate would mean an independent film like “O, Brother Where Art Thou?”, which he starred in, wouldn’t have been made.
“If you look at those guys, there is no conscience at work,” Clooney told Deadline.com. “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.”
In his targets, Loeb is the one who is used to making the blistering comments. He is known for his letters that sharply critique the companies, board and management he goes after. At Yahoo, he said the board and management lived in “an illogical Alice-in-Wonderland world” and called for a “complete corporate governance overhaul.”
We’ll see if Loeb has some choice words in response to Clooney.