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SI: Sony’s Next President

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If you’ve been watching Sony for the last few years, then you remember Sir Howard Stringer has basically had two roles at one point – Chairman and CEO (2005). He assumed the role of President after Ryoji Chubachi stepped down in 2009.

Bloomberg has the scoop that Sony is looking to divide the President responsibilities from Stringer, and either offer it to Kazuo Hirai or Hiroshi Yoshioka. It’s not necessarily a jab at Howard or anything, but it would be nice to lighten the load for the man. He is turning 69 years old next Feburary and has been bouncing around his main office in New York, Sony’s Tokyo headquarters, the movie division in Los Angeles and London where his family lives for the last few years. Bloomberg had an interesting quote about Howard’s future with the company as well, nothing “He said last year he wanted to remain on the job until Sony completes its business plan ending in March 2013.”

Kaz has has always been a very positive personality for Sony and is already doing many things for the company that are similar to the role of a President. Hirai is the current Chairman and Group Chief Executive Officer of Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc. He also serves as Executive Vice President, Officer in charge of Networked Products & Service Group of Sony Corporation. It makes sense to play a guy like this as the new President of Sony, especially since the USA is more familiar with him and he is a part of some very innovative areas of the company.

There is also word from Bloomberg that the other person to assume the role of President could be Hiroshi Yoshioka, the executive deputy president and a corporate executive officer who has been with the company since 1979. He has been instrumental in helping the company change over the last few years and obviously has a great deal of experience with Sony.

Both are referred to as members of the “Four Musketeers,” which is a group Fortune published a great article about back in 2009:

At the same time, he (Stringer) reconfigured the company into two new core groups and elevated four English-speaking Japanese executives in their late forties and fifties — relative greenhorns by Japanese standards — to run them. Corporate troubleshooter and former TV division head Hiroshi Yoshioka, the eldest of the group at 56, now oversees a $50 billion consumer products group that includes TVs, stereos, DVD and Blu-ray players, and camcorders.

Kazuo “Kaz” Hirai, 48, a marketing whiz who had been running Sony’s games business, now oversees a much broader networked-products and services group that is home to PlayStations, Vaio computers, and Sony’s Walkman audio line. It also is tasked with the critical job of creating a new set of digital services that will tie all of Sony’s gadgets and gizmos together. Kunai Suzuki, 48, is Hirai’s deputy and will run the Vaio business but will also have responsibility for incubating a next generation of devices for this networked world. Rounding out the four is Yoshihisa “Bob” Ishida, 49, a well-regarded strategist with an outspoken style whose assignment is to revitalize the TV-display business.

Stringer, in a typically impromptu moment at a press conference in February announcing the changes, dubbed the core of his new team the “four musketeers.” Beyond the four, Stringer created centralized corporate functions like manufacturing and procurement, and hired an IBM executive, George Bailey, as the company’s first “chief transformation officer.” And other big but less central businesses, like Sony’s film, music, and financial arms, still report to Stringer.

All this organizational jujitsu must now yield tangible results: sustained profitability, a more cohesive corporate culture, and the nimbleness to fend off all its new-style rivals. (A single iconic new hit gizmo won’t revive Sony, but it wouldn’t hurt either.) After the plan was announced, the Nikkei Weekly tartly wrote that the moves “smack of desperation.” But investors are, for the moment, onboard.



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