In a surprise announcement Friday afternoon Tokyo time, Sony Corp said that Kazuo Hirai would step aside as President and CEO of the electronics giant, taking up the role of Director Chairman. He will be replaced in running the company by longtime Sony executive Kenichiro Yoshida whom he called a “confidante and business partner” who “has supported me closely the past four years and contributed beyond his remit as CFO.”
In that post, Yoshida has been instrumental in helping Hirai to steer Sony to the recovery that’s reflected by today’s Q3 results which include record quarterly profits and an increased full-year forecast. The two men addressed their succession plans and what’s ahead for the future which Yoshida said holds a “sense of urgency” as the company needs to “enhance competitiveness.”
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Hirai, who took over the CEO post in 2012 and led two cycles of three-year mid-range corporate plans, said that as the next one is about to kick off, it was “the best time to pass the baton to a new management team.” Noting that when he took over, the most pressing issue was a turnaround of the consumer electronics business — “we were lost and had lost a sense of direction” — he called the past six years a “deeply moving experience” as he pursued not scale, but differentiation. “I had many challenging moments and had to make difficult decisions that impacted employees and shareholders.” But, he said, “they were imperative.”
“I always tried to lead a company that would uphold the spirit of innovation and to take on new challenges that would move the company forward,” Hirai continued. “I am very proud that in the third and final year of the current mid-range plan, we are expected to exceed financial targets. It makes me very pleased to hear people enthuse that Sony is back again.”
Yoshida noted he has “strived to contribute to transforming Sony to a highly profitable enterprise.” But over the past 20 years, “the global business environment surrounding Sony has changed drastically.”
Hirai concurred, “Although we have made significant progress, the competitive landscape is changing as rapidly as ever. All businesses continue to face great challenges. I expect the new team to maintain an acute sense of vigilance as they engage in operations.”
Yoshida added, “I believe that Sony’s greatest strength is the SONY brand that resonates with so many customers around the world. It has always been and will be our greatest asset. We have a diverse array of employees engaged in a diverse range of business. How we go about maximizing the diversity to our advantage is a pressing challenge.”
Hirai said he had been asked to assist Yoshida “as long as would be” needed and specified he “may be able to provide some advice” in the games or entertainment or networks segments. The Pictures division today reported a big upswing in profits thanks in part to the box office success of Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle.
There will be further executive appointments and organizational changes to come, said Yoshida, promising, “I will devote my full effort to creating a better Sony that captures the imagination of stakeholders around the world.”
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