Kazuo Hirai to Step Down as Sony CEO
In a move that came as a surprise to his board, Kazuo Hirai has decided to step down as CEO of Sony effective April 1. In a statement, the company explained that, in a proposal made to the board, Hirai presented a management structure that would make Kenishiro Yoshida, currently the CFO of Sony, the new CEO. Hirai will move into a chairman role. After deliberation, the board and Nominating Committee approved the proposal.
Hirai, who has been at the helm of the consumer electronics giant since 2012, helped Sony navigate probably its most difficult era as a company, and completed one of the most impressive turnarounds. According to recent net profit projections, Sony’s FY 2018 is on pace to hit a record high under Hirai’s leadership. Yoshida, who was hired by Hirai early on as his strategy chief and has worked hand and hand with his CEO to restructure and refocus the electronics manufacturer. After a few years of negative revenue returns, Sony is on a three-year net profit streak, including the projected record-setting year this year.
"The Board is grateful to Kazuo Hirai for his outstanding contribution over the past six years, taking leadership of the company amidst an extremely challenging business environment in 2012, and making great progress in revitalizing Sony’s business,” Osamu Nagayama, Chairman of the Board and Chair of the Nominating Committee for Sony, said in the statement. “Given these achievements, we were initially surprised by his proposal to step down from the role of President and CEO, but over time and following extensive further discussions we ultimately reached a decision to respect his wishes. The Nominating Committee had been regularly discussing potential management succession plans, and after receiving the proposal from Mr. Hirai, we engaged in renewed discussion, leading to the conclusion that Mr. Yoshida would be the ideal candidate to succeed Mr. Hirai as Sony President and CEO, and lead Sony into the future.”
Prior to assuming the role of CEO, Hirai was the head of Sony’s video game unit, which is widely regarded as one of the company’s best and most profitable groups. Under Hirai as CEO, Sony has seen its PlayStation 4 become the best selling video game console of the current generation of consoles with 76.5 million in sales—and still going. It’s that business and the chip business that helped Sony complete its turnaround.
"Ever since my appointment as President and CEO in April 2012, I have stated that my mission is to ensure Sony continues to be a company that provides customers with kando—to move them emotionally—and inspires and fulfills their curiosity,” Hirai said in the statement. “As the company approaches a crucial juncture, when we will embark on a new mid-range plan, I consider this to be the ideal time to pass the baton of leadership to new management, for the future of Sony and also for myself to embark on a new chapter in my life.”
Oh Yoshida, Hirai said he “possesses the breadth of experience and perspective” to continue to drive Sony forward. He also said he will continue to support Hirai from his chairman’s role.
"I am very grateful to Kazuo Hirai and the Sony Board for their trust and confidence in appointing me as Sony President and CEO, and at the same time feel a great sense of responsibility in taking on this vitally important role,” Yoshida said in the statement. “Together with the outstanding talent we have across the Sony Group, I will aim to build on the business foundations established by Mr. Hirai, and execute further reform measures that enhance our competitiveness as a global enterprise, and enable us to realize long-term profit growth. My first priority will be to finalize our next mid-range corporate plan starting in April, together with our immediate business plan for the fiscal year 2018, and then move ahead swiftly with implementation. This is a hugely exciting time at Sony as we look to our future, and together with my management team I intend to determine the best path for us to move forward.”