Sony promotes Hirai, possible successor to CEO

Sony said it would promote Kazuo Hirai as the head of the company’s biggest division, as part of a realignment that signals he could be a potential successor to Chief Executive Howard Stringer.

Welsh-born Stringer (69) who serves as the company’s chairperson, chief executive and president, will retain his current positions, a Sony spokesperson said on Thursday.

“It’s a sign that Sony has exited the crisis mode that it’s been in since the Lehman shock. It can now move on from talk of restructuring to growth,” said Mitsushige Akino, chief fund manager at Ichiyoshi Investment Management.

Sony has been mulling a potential successor for Stringer, the first non-Japanese to run the consumer electronics company, who is expected to step down in 2013. In January he denied he was a candidate for chairperson of the BBC.

Hirai (50) currently runs the firm’s network products and services division, which includes Sony’s games business as well as newer ventures such as music and movie streaming services.

“In his current role, Mr Hirai has successfully led the turnaround of the games business,” Sony said in a statement.

Profits and losses
Under Stringer, Sony has slashed jobs and sold off factories to improve margins but analysts have said it will take more than streamlining to help Sony catch up with rivals including Apple, Nintendo and Samsung Electronics.

Sony shares shed 1,2% by 5am GMT in a broader market down 1,4%.

Hirai, who will become executive deputy president on April 1, is a fluent English speaker known for his presentation skills, which were on display at the unveiling of Sony’s new handheld games device at a splashy Tokyo ceremony in January.

Operating profit more than doubled in his network products and services division in October to December last year, but was outweighed by losses on TVs, resulting in a fall in Sony’s overall profit.

Sony also announced it would realign its business into two core groups, one covering consumer products and services and accounting for 60% of the company’s turnover, to be led by Hirai.

The other division, covering business to business areas such as semi-conductors, batteries and other key components, will be led by Hiroshi Yoshioka.

Stringer took over as chairperson and CEO of Sony in 2005, and added the role of president in 2009. He has overseen a round of intense cost-cutting to return the company to profit. — Reuters

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Isabel Reynolds
Isabel Reynolds works from [email protected] Politics reporter for Bloomberg in Tokyo. Opinions are my own, Retweets are not endorsements, etc. Isabel Reynolds has over 2283 followers on Twitter.

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