More than eight months have passed since Amy Pascal stepped down from her role at Sony, but Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton insists the hacked emails that exposed embarrassing private conversations did not play a role in her departure. “Ultimately, it was [a decision] made by Amy and myself and others at Sony corporate that it was a good time to part company,” Lynton told Harvard students at a campus Q&A on Thursday, per The Hollywood Reporter. “It was as much about the performance of the film unit as [anything else]. Her contract was up in March.”
Lynton went on to say that he thinks the massive cyber attack could’ve happened to any company and that Pascal’s leaving should be treated separately from the email hack. “It didn’t have anything to do with emails,” Lynton said. “Any connection between the two is invalid.”
He expressed the same sentiment earlier in the week at a panel sponsored by Vanity Fair: “Amy did not leave the company because of those emails. I can understand that people were very upset by those emails, but that’s not the reason why.”
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Sony’s distribution of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s The Interview last December presumably made the studio a target, and the subsequent hack revealed emails that showed the studio had serious concerns about the film. “There was a conversation around it,” Lynton told interviewer Harvard Business Review editor-in-chief Adi Ignatius, of The Interview. “Everyone said [North Korea] will be upset about it. But this was the first evidence anyone had of how Kim Jong-un would act.”
Lynton believes North Korean hackers remain at the root of the attack, though some experts have cast doubt on that theory. “There’s no question in my mind,” he said. “They did extensive forensics. … The level of sophistication to do what was done was so high.”
As for The Interview, which grossed only $6.1 million in theaters, the Sony CEO has some regrets: “Yeah, I do wish it was better, but it’s a fun movie.”
For more from Lynton, head to The Hollywood Reporter.