Sony’s CEO is out, as the company tries to return to its premium pedigree

Outgoing CEO Hirai.
Outgoing CEO Hirai.
Image: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
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Sony’s current CEO, Kazuo “Kaz” Hirai, will be handing over the reins of the company to his chief financial officer, Kenichiro Yoshida, April 1. Hirai has been in the job since 2012, having served since 1995 in the company’s video games division. He will stay on as the company’s chairman, and released a statement on Sony’s site earlier today, Feb. 2:

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. To this end, I have dedicated myself to transforming the company and enhancing its profitability, and am very proud that now, in the third and final year of our current mid-range corporate plan, we are expecting to exceed our financial targets. And 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.

My successor, Kenichiro Yoshida, has supported me closely since returning to Sony in December 2013 , contributing extensively beyond his remit as CFO and acting as valuable confidant and business partner, as we took on the challenge of transforming Sony together. Mr. Yoshida combines a deeply strategic mindset with a relentless determination to achieve defined targets, and the ability to take a global viewpoint. I believe he possesses the breadth of experience and perspective, as well as the unwavering leadership qualities required to manage Sony’s diverse array of businesses, and as such is the ideal person to drive the company forward into the future. As Chairman, I will of course offer my full support to Mr. Yoshida and the new management team, and do all I can to facilitate a smooth transition and ensure their future success.

Under Hirai’s tenure, Sony’s stock price has ballooned by about 200% to $52, and he has tried to recapture the dominant position in consumer electrics and gaming that the company had 20 years ago. Hirai has pushed the concept of “kando“—a Japanese term that he’s translated as eliciting an emotional response from Sony’s customers—in his running of the business.

It’s something that showed recently in Sony’s approach to this year’s CES consumer electronics trade show in Las Vegas. Whether Yoshida will be able to maintain this philosophy, and the direction that Hirai has taken the business in recent years, remains to be seen.