Stephen goes to Hollywood

CSFB''s vice-chairman and old Asia hand, Stephen Stonefield retires; but plans new career as movie mogul.

They're high profile, they're rich, and they're looking for something more interesting to do. You may have noticed that senior investment bankers around the world are looking to relaunch new careers. The trend has hit Asia.

Stephen Stonefield, the former Asia head of CSFB and till recently its vice-chairman, is to retire.

However, adding a new twist, Stonefield's new direction sees him move into the movie business. The US banker is a shareholder in a new venture called Lion Digital Pictures, a digital animation film studio based in Singapore.

Backed by a fair amount of equity from the Singapore government sources, it hopes to become the Pixar of Asia. Digital animation movies such as Shrek have become mainstream in Hollywood. Meanwhile, Lion Digital Pictures boasts a number of heavyweight shareholder/ employees such as a former CEO of Lucasfilms, an indication of how serious it is.

Stonefield will sit on the board and work on strategic alliances, and use his experiences in Japan to help the new company seek opportunities there. As such, he will continue to live in Singapore, where he was based with CSFB.

Stonefield got involved in the project thanks to a longstanding relationship with one of the brains behind the idea, John Kao. A former Harvard Business School professor, Kao got involved in movies in the 1980s and struck up a relationship with Stonefield. Indeed, Stonefield helped him raise the finance for one of his first pictures, Sex Lies and Videotape.

Stonefield says he has received lots of calls from other friends with other ideas, and calls it a rejuvenating period after so many years in investment banking.

Board directorships are a likely possibility, but he is also keen to get involved in some philanthropy.

And as to his new career in animated movies, a 'good versus evil' tale of investment banking wizards helping their clients with value-added solutions in the mythical land of Ga-ga must surely beckon.

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