Daniel Loeb, the prominent New York hedge fund billionaire who holds an activist position at Sony (NYSE:SNE), recently made headlines when he criticized Sony Pictures Entertainment for its recent missteps and called for the company to spin off its entertainment assets. Now, George Clooney, who recently shared Best Picture at the Oscars for the film Argo, is striking back.
In an exclusive interview from Deadline, a conversation with Clooney about his upcoming film The Monuments Men sharply turned towards Loeb’s recent remarks and how they could affect the industry.
“[Loeb] calls himself an activist investor, and I would call him a carpet bagger, and one who is trying to spread a climate of fear that pushes studios to want to make only tent poles,” Clooney said. “What he’s doing is scaring studios and pushing them to make decisions from a place of fear. Why is he buying stock like crazy if he’s so down on things? He’s trying to manipulate the market.”
He also found an opportunity to take a shot at Walmart (NYSE:WMT) when he made a comparison between Hollywood and the impact of Walmart on small towns. “To have this guy portraying it that Sony management is the bad stepchild and doesn’t know what it is doing and he’s going to fix it? That is like Walmart saying, let me fix your town, putting in their store, strangling all the small shops and getting everyone who worked in them to work for minimum wage with no health insurance.”
Clooney also pointed out that Loeb only focused on several box office bombs without mentioning the films that have recently done well for the studio. “Why didn’t he include Skyfall, the 007 movie that grossed a billion dollars, or Zero Dark Thirty or Django Unchained?” he asked. “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.”
He was also highly sensitive about the topic of job creation and sent some barbs in Loeb’s direction.
Hedge fund guys do not create jobs, and we do,” he said. “This is an industry that thrives; there are thousands of workers who make films. You want to see what happens if outside forces start to scare the industry and studios just make tent poles out of fear? You will see a lot of crap coming out.”
Clooney finally moved back towards the topic at hand, his film The Monuments Men, but not before his statements sent shock-waves through the industry.