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Hirai to Succeed Stringer At Sony

Sony Corp. has named Kazuo Hirai as the successor to Sir Howard Stringer, with the announcement that Hirai will assume the president and CEO post on April 1.

Stringer, who is currently chairman, president and CEO, will remain as chairman until June 1, when he will become chairman of the Board of Directors and the current board chairman, Yotaro Kobayashi, retires.

Stringer, who is 69, had been grooming Hirai, aged 51, as a possible successor and Hirai, who is currently the company's executive deputy president, played a prominent role at the company's CES presentation in January.

Hirai, who had turned around the company's videogame business, will take over a company that has seen several years of losses and a slumping share price. In his new role, he'll be a facing a number of major challenges, including a strong yen that has hurt Sony's cost structure and tough competition from Apple and Samsung who have leaped ahead of Sony in recent years in the mobile and TV markets.

The company had predicted a profit for its fiscal year ending in March 2012, but in November revised that to a projection to another loss, in part because of the strong yen and damage suffered to its facilities by the Japanese tsunami and flooding in Thailand last year.

A key focus of the company during CES was to find ways to better integrate its content and devices. After taking full control of its mobile joint venture last year, Sony will also be pushing to expand its smartphone position, where it has fallen way behind Apple and Samsung.

"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 a statement. "I am grateful to Sir Howard and to the Board for their confidence in me, and I look forward to working with everyone at Sony more closely than ever before to build a strong future for our customers, shareholders, partners and employees. The path we must take is clear: to drive the growth of our core electronics businesses – primarily digital imaging, smart mobile and game; to turn around the television business; and to 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."

In making the announcement, Stringer commented: "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. 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. I believe his tough-mindedness and leadership skills will be of great benefit to the company and its customers in the months and years ahead. I look forward to helping Kaz in every way I can so that succession leads inevitably to success. It was my honor to recommend him to the Board for the positions of president and CEO, because he is ready to lead, and the time to make this change is now."