Bersch, who comes to the studio from his position as chief operating officer at Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, will report to Schlessel.
He will oversee SPWAG's acquisition and co-financing of films for various SPE distribution platforms and will also take over management of films produced by SPWAG's Stage 6 Films division which focuses on original, high concept and cast-driven films.
At Fox, he ran the home entertainment division's acquisition programme and its DVD premiere production unit which he launched in 2004.
'I have a much broader mandate than I had at Fox,' Bersch told Screen yesterday on his first day in the new job. 'I have the ability to buy higher profile films and make higher profile product. One of the nice parts of the job is that it's a worldwide job. At Fox, some of the productions we did would go out worldwide, but only some of the job pertained to international.'
Bersch said that he has a team - Adrian Alperovich, Lara Thompson and Scott Shooman -in place and he had no staff changes planned. He won't be attending Berlin but intends to be in Cannes.
'SPWAG has a strong commitment to independent films, and our third-party business is a significant contributor to the growth of Sony Pictures,' said Schlessel in a statement. 'By placing an exceptionally talented and respected entertainment executive like Steve at the helm of this business, SPWAG's strong performance and ongoing success are ensured. I am delighted to welcome Steve to the Sony family.'
Bersch has spent 14 years at Fox where he has held positions including president of Fox Interactive and executive vice president of business affairs, heading business affairs for all theatrical divisions at the studio. Prior to Fox, he held executive positions at Paramount, Warner Bros and MGM/UA.
He started his career as an entertainment attorney at Rosenfeld, Meyer and Susman and then Sidley & Austin representing producers, writers, directors, actors and film financiers.