Sony confirms much-rumoured appointment of new President and CEO

Former Playstation division boss Kazuo Hirai (left) has been appointed President and CEO of Sony, replacing Sir Howard Stringer.

The announcement ends a period of rumour and speculation – as recently as last month Sony responded to press reports of Hirai's impending elevation with a statement that no such decision had been made.

'Kaz' Hirai, 51, will replace Stringer – who will be 70 in a few weeks' time – from April 1st.

Stringer, who had previously said he had no plans to step down before the completion of a three-year turnaround plan in March next year, will continue as Chairman of Sony Corporation until he succeeds retiring Chairman of the Board Yotaro Kobayashi in June.

The new president has already said one of his main tasks will be to turn around Sony's loss-making TV division: in an interview last November he spoke of his 'unflagging resolve' to return the division to profitability, adding that Sony's management 'feels a sense of crisis' about the current ongoing losses.

Stringer (left), who was with broadcaster CBS for 30 years, rising to president of that company before joining Sony in 1997, says that he has been working on finding his successor for three years.

'In February, 2009 we named a new generation of leaders to be my management team. Among them was Kaz Hirai, who had distinguished himself through his work in the PlayStation and networked entertainment businesses.

'Kaz is a globally focused executive for whom technology and the cloud are familiar territory, content is highly valued, and digital transformation is second nature.

'I believe his tough-mindedness and leadership skills will be of great benefit to the company and its customers in the months and years ahead. I look forward to helping Kaz in every way I can so that succession leads inevitably to success. It was my honor to recommend him to the Board for the positions of President and CEO, because he is ready to lead, and the time to make this change is now.'

Hirai joined Sony Computer Entertainment America in 1995, having started with CBS/Sony (now Sony Music) in 1984. He oversaw the launch PlayStation 2 online Gaming and, more recently, the PlayStaion Network.

He says that 'The path we must take is clear: to drive the growth of our core electronics businesses - primarily digital imaging, smart mobile and game; to turn around the television business; and to accelerate the innovation that enables us to create new business domains.'

And he has committed the company to using its 'diverse electronics product portfolio, in conjunction with our rich entertainment assets and growing array of networked services, to engage with our customers around the world in new and exciting ways.'

The company Hirai will take over will need all those efforts to bring it back to its former success: worth $100bn in 2000, it's now valued at just £18bn, while rivals such as Apple. LG and Samsung have risen in that period. Apple is now valued at $425bn, while Samsung in particular is showing Sony a clean pair of heels in just about every sector where the two compete.

Sony has already revised its earlier predictions of a Y60bn (£500m) profit in the current financial year: in November, it said it now expects to make a loss of Y90bn (£750m), and a major factor in that will be the Y50bn (£416m) costs of streamlining its TV business.

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Andrew has written about audio and video products for the past 20+ years, and been a consumer journalist for more than 30 years, starting his career on camera magazines. Andrew has contributed to titles including What Hi-Fi?, GramophoneJazzwise and Hi-Fi CriticHi-Fi News & Record Review and Hi-Fi Choice. I’ve also written for a number of non-specialist and overseas magazines.