Kenichiro Yoshida (right), Sony Corp.'s incoming chief executive officer, with Kazuo Hirai, its former CEO at a news conference in Tokyo on Feb. 2, 2018.
Akio Kon—Bloomberg/Getty Images
By Yuri Kageyama / AP
February 2, 2018

(TOKYO) — Sony Corp. named Chief Financial Officer Kenichiro Yoshida as its new president and CEO on Friday, replacing Kazuo Hirai, who led a turnaround at the Japanese electronics and entertainment company and will stay on as chairman.

Yoshida has experience in Sony’s U.S. operations, as well as its network, financial and investor relations businesses. Yoshida and Hirai were to talk to reporters later Friday.

Sony’s board members said they were surprised Hirai wanted to step down. But Hirai said in a statement the timing was right to “pass the baton” to the next leadership.

Hirai became president and CEO in 2012, taking over from Howard Stringer, an American. He turned around an embattled Tokyo-based Sony, which had sunk into losses as its once prized TV business lost out to rivals such as Samsung Electronics Co. of South Korea. Sony is now headed to booming profits because of its successful chips business, outpacing company targets.

“It excites me to hear more and more people enthuse that Sony is back again. 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,” he said.

Yoshida, who now also serves as executive deputy president, promised to forge ahead with the changes Hirai had led to realize sold profits and growth to stay globally competitive.

As Sony moves into a new mid-range plan from April, Hirai felt Yoshida was the right person to lead the company, he said.

Yoshida had shown “relentless determination to achieve defined targets,” and he had worked by his side and could be trusted, he added.

Hirai has had a difficult task of juggling the widespread operations of Sony, including household appliances, medical equipment and video game machines, as well as movies, financial services and music. It was hard to make sure every sector was profitable.

But Hirai always stressed the importance of Sony’s roots, pointing to how Sony brought the world portable music players like the Walkman, the reel-to-reel tape recorder and other gadgets that went on to pioneer entire sectors because of what he described as an exciting emotional appeal.

Sony was founded in 1946 by Akio Morita and Masaru Ibuka as Japan was reconstructing from the destruction of World War II. Their dream had always been to climb to global success.

Also Friday, Sony reported fiscal third quarter profit of 296 billion yen ($2.7 billion), up dramatically from 19.6 billion yen the same period a year ago.

Quarterly sales rose nearly 12 percent to 2.67 trillion yen.

Sony said it fared better in semiconductors, games and network services, imaging products and home entertainment systems.

In its pictures division, global reception was favorable to Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, as well as on-demand TV sales for “The Crown,” according to Sony.

Also helping lift results were the absence of losses that had hurt results before, such as the damage from an earthquake in Kumamoto, southwestern Japan in 2016.

A favorable exchange rate also helped. A weak yen is a boon to Japanese exporters like Sony. The dollar cost about 113 yen for the quarter just ended, up from 109 yen the same period a year ago.

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