Amy Pascal to step down as Sony Pictures chair after 'racially insensitive' emails leaked in North Korean cyber-attack

She will, however, launch a new production company within Sony in March

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Amy Pascal, the Sony Pictures co-chairman whose personal emails were leaked as part of a devastating cyber-attack on the studio last year, is to step down from the role.

Sony announced on Wednesday that Ms Pascal would remain at the studio, launching a new, in-house production company in May.

Beginning on 24 November, the Sony hack crippled the studio’s computer systems and saw thousands of sensitive internal documents dumped online.

An FBI investigation concluded that the cyber-attack was carried out by or at the behest of North Korea, in response to the release of The Interview, a satirical comedy depicting the assassination of the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un. Pascal was responsible for green-lighting the film.

The 56-year-old executive publicly apologised following the leak of several “racially insensitive” emails, in which she joked about Barack Obama’s film tastes. In a private exchange with producer Scott Rudin, the two suggested the President would prefer black-themed films such as Django Unchained and 12 Years a Slave. Their conversation also included unflattering comments about actor-director Angelina Jolie.

After the leak, Pascal met with African-American leaders including Reverend Al Sharpton, who had accused her of “cultural blindness”. The executive told Deadline at the time that she had made the remarks “in a rash moment without thinking them through,” adding:  “I am mostly disappointed in myself... I don’t want to be defined by these emails, after a 30-year career.”

Pascal has served as Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chair alongside the studio’s CEO, Michael Lynton, since 2006. As Hollywood’s foremost female executive and one of its longest serving studio chiefs, she is said to be well liked by film-makers, and in recent years has cultivated a slate of acclaimed films such as Zero Dark ThirtyAmerican HustleMoneyball and The Social Network.

As part of her new deal, she will act as a producer on high-profile projects including the new, all-female Ghostbusters reboot. “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,” Ms Pascal said in a statement. “I have always wanted to be a producer.”