"But we would like to refrain from discussing it publicly." US billionaire Daniel Loeb, who says his hedge fund Third Point has amassed the largest stake in Sony, called on the firm's executives to spin off up to 20 percent of the entertainment unit, which includes a music label and Hollywood movie studio.
Loeb, known for his aggressive style in stoking change at target firms, initially took a softer approach by praising Sony chief Kazuo Hirai's bid to turn the company around after years of losses. The billionaire's polite letters to Sony's chief were widely seen as catering to Japan's corporate culture, where vocal shareholder activism is rare.
"But it's not a favourable time for Third Point as Sony appears to be on track to a recovery," Dan Matsuda, a corporate lawyer at Jones Day in Tokyo, told AFP. And there have been a string of failed bids by foreign investors trying to force change at Japanese firms. "Generally speaking, Japanese companies are still defensive toward proposals from foreign investors," Matsuda said.
In a quarterly letter to investors this week, he struck a harder tone, saying corporate culture in the subsidiary was "characterised by a complete lack of accountability and poor financial controls".
The division "remains poorly managed, with a famously bloated corporate structure, generous perk packages, high salaries for underperforming senior executives, and marketing budgets that do not seem to be in line with any sense of return on capital invested," Loeb wrote. He added that "drastic - rather than incremental - action is required".
Hirai has resisted previous calls to break up the electronics giant. In June, he told an annual investor meeting in Tokyo that the company's board was studying the plan from "all sorts of angles", but said it would not be rushed into a decision.