To Streamline and Reorganize, Sony Shakes Up Leadership Roles

By Carolyn Braff

Sony is making some structural changes within the company’s organization, starting with the man at the top. Howard Stringer, chairman and CEO of the company, will also take on the title of president of Sony effective April 1, centering the company’s power in one man and giving him more-direct control over the electronics division.

Stringer succeeds Ryoji Chubachi as president, and Chubachi will become vice-chairman, assisting Stringer in product quality and safety, as well as environmental issues.

“Consumers want products that are networked, multifunctional, and service-enhanced utilizing open technologies, and user experiences that are rich, shared, and, increasingly, green,” Stringer said 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.”

Also included in the structural changes is a reorganization of the electronics and games divisions, to bring more cohesion to the company. A streamlined decision-making process will better enable Sony to take on its competition and weather the economic downturn, which has translated into an operating loss of $2.7 billion for Sony in the year ending March 31.

“We have two distinct challenges facing us,” Stringer said. “The first is the global slowdown, which forces us to make significant adjustments. The second challenge is the evolution of our competitive environment. New competitors springing out everywhere.”

Kazuo Hirai, chief of Sony’s videogames unit, will lead a new Networked Products and Services Group that brings together Sony’s PlayStation games console, Vaio personal computers, Walkman audio products, new mobile products, and Sony Media Software and Services. The hope is that this new unit will enable all of the diverse products included to work more closely together, especially as all of the products will eventually provide access to Sony’s PlayStation Network, an online content-distribution system.

Hiroshi Yoshioka, currently head of Sony’s TV business, will head the newly formed New Consumer Products Group, bringing together Sony’s Bravia TV, digital-imaging, home-audio, and video businesses. One of four younger executives introduced by Stringer to spearhead efforts to consolidate the sprawling company, Yoshioka will also oversee the Semiconductor and Component Business Group.

“We must drive change along several fronts,” Stringer said. “We must regroup and rationalize our important core electronics-product business. We must accelerate the introduction of innovative network product and service offerings.”

As part of the shakeup at the top, Sony Group CFO Katsumi Ihara will be shifted off of the main company’s board in favor of becoming an executive director at Sony Financial Holdings.

Stringer, a Welsh-born American, is the first non-Japanese to head Sony Corp.

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