Companies & Sectors
Sony chief Amy Pascal steps down after emails leaks

Leaked emails by Amy Pascal included at least one racially-insensitive one referring to President Barack Obama, while another called Angelina Jolie a spoiled brat

 

Amy Pascal, the Sony executive whose emails were leaked during the North Korean movie hacking saga, is stepping down, the Hollywood studio announced Thursday.
 
Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, will launch a “major new production venture” at the studio, which was rocked by the hacking storm centred on the satirical film “The Interview.”
 
“I have spent almost my entire professional life at Sony Pictures and I am energised to be starting this new chapter based at the company I call home,” she said in a company statement.
 
Leaked emails by Pascal included at least one racially-insensitive one referring to President Barack Obama, while another called Angelina Jolie a “spoiled brat”.
 
“The Interview” was scheduled for a Christmas Day release before Sony became the target of the biggest cyberattack in US corporate history.
 
Threats made by hackers prompted Sony to initially cancel its theatrical release. It was eventually screened in select art house cinemas, and released on the Internet and via cable TV providers.
 
Washington has blamed North Korea for the hack on Sony — a claim Pyongyang has denied while still strongly condemning the film, which features a fictional plot to assassinate leader Kim Jong-un.
 
“The Interview,” which had a $44 million budget, has since become Sony’s highest-grossing online film ever, reportedly recently passing the $40 million mark on the Internet and other small-screen formats.
 

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Mirach Capital says Sahara wasting time of investors, SEBI and Courts
Mirach Capital accused Sahara group of repeatedly undermining a transaction for sale of its properties, saying that the Subrata Roy-led group 'wasted' time of its investors as also that of SEBI and the courts
 
Hitting back at Sahara group, US-based Mirach Capital on Friday rejected accusations of indulging in forgery and counter-accused the Indian group of walking out of the $2 billion loan arrangement fearing repayment defaults. However, a non-defiant Mirach still offered a full buyout of Sahara’s three iconic hotels in the US and UK.
 
Mirach refused to comment on earlier claims that the banker arranged by it for the deal was Bank of America, whose denial being party to any such transaction blew the lid on the alleged forgery.
 
In a statement, Mirach CEO Saransh Sharma steered clear of the issue of a Bank of America letter it furnished as guarantee of funds in an escrow account for Sahara, which then placed it before the Supreme Court but later found it to be “forged“.
 
He further accused Sahara of repeatedly undermining a transaction for sale of its properties and said it “wasted” the time of its investors as also that of SEBI and the courts.
 
“In light of recent comments made by Sahara, we would like to offer the following details in an effort to provide transparency and give a comprehensive view of what has transpired to date.
 
“Mirach has faced a number of challenges in closing this transaction; nevertheless, we remain steadfast and are ready, willing, and able to acquire these assets,” he added.
 
Sharma further said: “The Amicus Curiae, Sahara’s legal counsel, Subrata Roy, and other essential parties, including our investors, have been made privy to the details indicating our willingness and ability to successfully execute this transaction.
 
“In spite of the court mandates to raise bail, Sahara has always been and continues to be an unwilling seller of these assets. They have thus repeatedly acted to undermine the transaction, and thereby waste the time of our investors, SEBI, and the Honourable Supreme Court of India.
 
“The dangerous allegations made by Sahara are indicative of a direct intent to destabilise a deal structure that, given its high rate of return, would benefit Mirach and its investors.”
 

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It's Grammy Time: Who's Belting out Name Brands?
How many ads are hiding in popular songs?
 
I love it when people sing. It doesn’t matter if their pitch is off or their timing is terrible. (OK. It matters a little.) When someone hums a few notes, lip-syncs a few phrases, or sings a whole song out loud, it makes me smile. 
 
So when I heard the voice of a young friend belting out the lyrics to “She Looks So Perfect” by 5 Seconds of Summer (aka “5SOS” just so you’ve got the 411), I wanted to smile. I wanted to, but instead my head tilted and my brow crinkled as if to say, “Really?” Here’s why:
 
You look so perfect standing there in my American Apparel underwear.
 
This chorus is repeated four times when the song airs on the radio, or about a thousand times when a kid has it stuck in his or her head. It’s not just that prepubescent children are parroting lyrics about physical desires and being half naked … in other people’s clothes. It’s that a bold product reference is cleverly laced into the refrain of a mass-marketed pop song, masquerading as art to the unsuspecting ears of an audience too young to realize it is being manipulated.
 
I knew “She Looks So Perfect” was not unique. I knew other popular songs were imbued with product references. I decided to do some research.
 
What I discovered surprised me.
 
Pop’s Top Ten
Among the lyrics of the top ten pop songs on the Billboard charts there were only two unique and three total references. (Note: The lists of top songs ranked by Billboard were taken from late August and mid September 2014. The count of brand mentions in the lyrics may not be perfect. If you study the lyrics, maybe you’ll recognize other references that we missed.)
 
Here’s the list of those songs:
 
 
This was shocking. I considered the possibility, however remote, that my thesis was wrong. Then I noticed other Billboard rankings sorted by genre. And that’s when my concerns were unfortunately validated tenfold.
 
Coke, Jack and MTV
Among the lyrics of the top ten country songs, there were 14 unique brands mentioned a total of 24 times. There were only two “clean” songs in the bunch. By “clean” I mean lyrics that magically managed to express their poetry without naming a specific corporate label – imagine that. Here are the top ten country songs, whose lyrics I reviewed:
 
 
Hip-hop brands
The R&B/ hip-hop top ten list was similarly littered with brand after brand – 18 unique references for a total of 19 mentions. Only three songs escaped “clean.” Here are the ten R&B / hip-hop songs I studied:
 
 
If anyone doubts how profoundly co-dependent the popular music industry and corporate retailers have become, I point you to exhibit A: Billboard’s recent website with McDonalds advertisements.
 
 
At least the ads on Billboard’s website are clearly recognizable as ads. But the problem with the barrage of brand mentions in song lyrics is that they are meant to sound like art, and generally not in a truly artistic sense like Andy Warhol’s famous Campbell’s Soup Can in 1962. (Full disclosure: I’m not sure if Andy got any kickbacks from Campbell’s or maybe a lifetime supply of tomato soup.)
 
If brand mentions don’t translate directly into dollars in the pockets of songwriters, singers, and record producers, they certainly indirectly lead to endorsements (think 50 Cent and his hundred million dollar deal with the maker of vitaminwater) and perks a plenty.
 
Look. When it comes to music and poetry, I’m like anybody else. Sometimes a life changing chicken nugget inspires me to dance around in fashionable undies and get creative in iambic pentameter.
 
But all joking aside, as consumers and as music lovers, when we listen we must actually think about the meaning of the words we are humming. And as parents and teachers and role models, we should similarly help kids think about the meaning of what they are singing. It doesn’t mean they shouldn’t like the songs. It only means that they are more alert, and maybe a tad more objective when they’re spending their parents’ – and eventually their own – hard-earned money.
 
Also see these eye openers on advertisements masquerading as content:
 
CORRECTION 10/21/14: This blog posted on Oct. 20 initially misstated how many top country and hip-hop songs did not mention any products or companies. Two country songs and three hip-hop songs did have product or company names in the lyrics. 
 
 

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