Stringer shakes up Sony management, takes president position

Four years into his term as chairman of Sony and with the company facing plunging sales Howard Stringer plans to implement a company-wide reorganization and shake-up top management.

The changes, which will be effective from April 1, will see Stringer take on the title of president of Sony and with it direct control of the company's key electronics business. Stringer will retain his chairman and CEO titles, which gives him group-wide control of Sony, and Ryoji Chubachi, who currently serves as president, will become vice-chairman to assist Stringer in safety, quality and environmental issues, Sony said in a statement.

"Consumers want products that are networked, multi-functional and service-enhanced utilizing open technologies, and user experiences that are rich, shared and, increasingly, green," said Stringer in a statement. "This reorganization is designed to transform Sony into a more innovative, integrated and agile global company with its next generation of leadership firmly in place."

The electronics business will reorganized and two main groups will sit at its heart.

The Networked Products and Services Group will bring together Sony's PlayStation games console, Vaio personal computers, Walkman audio products, new mobile products and Sony Media Software and Services, which develops a common service platform across Sony products. All of these products currently provide access, or will in the future, to Sony's PlayStation Network, an online content distribution system that Sony expects will power its networked electronics products in the future.

At the top of the division will be Kaz Hirai, who currently runs the PlayStation business at subsidiary Sony Computer Entertainment. Hirai is a Sony veteran and fluent English speaker and managed Sony's U.S. PlayStation operations while Stringer was running Sony's U.S. consumer electronics business.

Another U.S. executive, Sony Electronics President Kunimasa Suzuki, will become senior vice president of Sony and deputy president of the new group. He will lead the Vaio business and a project to create new products that utilize the best technologies from across Sony.

The second major group will be the New Consumer Products Group that will bring together Sony's Bravia TV, digital imaging, home audio and video businesses.

It will be led by Hiroshi Yoshioka, who currently heads Sony's TV business. In this role he will also oversee the Semiconductor and Component Business Group. Yoshihisa Ishida, who currently runs the Vaio business, will head the TV business group in Yoshioka's place.

The reorganization will also see Katsumi Ihara, currently group CFO, shifted out of the main company and off its board to become an executive director at Sony Financial Holdings.

"The changes we’re announcing today will accelerate the transformation of the Company that began four years ago," Stringer said in a statement. "They will now make it possible for all of Sony’s parts to work together to assume a position of worldwide leadership and, together, achieve great things."

In January, Sony warned that sales in the current financial year, which ends in March, are expected to be ¥7.7 trillion (US$78 billion), a 14 percent cut from its previous forecast of ¥9 trillion, and net income will drop from an expected profit of ¥150 billion to a loss of the same amount. Sony blamed the strong Japanese yen and global economic slowdown for the problems.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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