Sony CFO Yoshida Named New Chief Exec

The Sony veteran replaces Kaz Hirai, with whom he collaborated on a turnaround strategy that returned the company to profitability.
Matthew HellerFebruary 2, 2018

Sony CFO Kenichiro Yoshida, a driving force behind the Japanese electronics giant’s efforts to streamline its businesses, has been named to replace Kazuo Hirai as chief executive.

The move ends Hirai’s six-year tenure at the helm of Sony, which has been marked by cost-cutting, the sale of the Vaio PC business, and the spinoff of the Walkman division. Hirai turned to Yoshida to execute the turnaround plan, elevating him to the role of CFO and his second-in-command in 2014.

Hirai will become the group’s chairman, with Yoshida taking over as CEO in April. Hiroki Totoki, currently chief strategy officer, will succeed Yoshida as CFO.

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“I share with Mr. Hirai the same sense of an urgent need for change,” Yoshida, 58, said Friday in a briefing in Tokyo. “Our position in the global market is very different to where it was 20 years ago.”

Sony’s share price jumped 1.9% as, according to The Financial Times, “investors cheered the selection of a chief executive who has proven willing to jettison Sony’s previously renowned consumer products to plug losses.”

“Investors have strong faith in Mr. Yoshida,” said Kazunori Ito, an analyst at Ibbotson Association Japan. “Sony’s recovery could easily crumble so it’s necessary to have someone like Mr Yoshida who can impose discipline inside the company.”

Yoshida joined Sony in 1987 but, from 2000 to 2013, worked for So-net, a Japanese internet provider and Sony subsidiary.

After returning to Sony, he worked with Hirai to return the corporation to profitability after several years of losses, focusing on areas of strength like PlayStation and components. “Yoshida is credited with helping turn around Sony’s finances throughout much of Hirai’s tenure, which began with a much-vaunted ‘One Sony’ streamlining initiative,” The Verge said.

“People who have worked with Mr. Yoshida describe him as blunt and ‘ruthless’ when employees fail to meet targets, but investors have welcomed the greater transparency he has brought to the company,” the FT reported.

Yoshida also has a playful side, disclosing recently that his favorite Sony product of the moment is the newly relaunched robot dog, Aibo.

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