Sony has announced a major reshuffle at the top, replacing chief executive and president Sir Howard Stringer with consumer products chief Kazuo Hirai.
Stringer, who has been chairman and chief executive of Sony since 2005 and president since 2009, will from 1 April scale his responsibilities back to those of chairman of the board of directors, Sony said on Wednesday.
"Three years ago, I started to work with the board on succession plans, and in February 2009 we named a new generation of leaders to be my management team," Stringer said in a statement. "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."
Board chairman Yotaro Kobayashi agreed with the Welshman's recommendation that Hirai take over, saying he had "a unique capacity to inspire people, to build teams, to make the tough decisions, and to think with clarity and foresight about the challenges we face and how to surmount them".
Those challenges are considerable. Overall, Sony has been losing money for the last few years. Its TV business has lost money for seven consecutive years, and is forecast to continue that trend for an eighth. Sony's PlayStation is also no longer the gaming leader that it once was, being outsold by Nintendo.
Sony is also conducting a billion-euro buyout of Ericsson's stake in their mobile joint venture, Sony Ericsson, and the costs associated with that deal contributed to heavy losses in the last quarter.
"As challenging as times are for Sony now, were it not for the strong leadership of Sir Howard Stringer these past seven years, we would have been in a much more difficult position," Hirai said in the statement.
Hirai outlined his vision for the company, saying it had to grow its digital imaging, mobile and gaming businesses, turn around its TV business and "accelerate the innovation that enables us to create new business domains".
"The foundations are now firmly in place for the new management team and me to fully leverage Sony's 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," Hirai said.