Report: Kaz Hirai to Replace Howard Stringer as Sony President

Stringer would remain as CEO and chairman of the board; the transition could come as early as April

Sony Corporation is getting a new president, according to a Japanese newspaper. Sony Computer Entertainment President Kaz Hirai will replace Howard Stringer, Nikkei Business Daily reports.

In March 2011, Stringer said Hirai — who helped pioneer PlayStation in the U.S. — was the "leading candidate" in the race to become Sony's next CEO, according to Techcrunch.

The transition could happen as early as April, with Stringer remaining as CEO and chairman of the board, according to the report from Japan. Historically at Sony, the president has been linked to the company's electronics arm, making Hirai a logical choice for the post.

Also read: Report Card 2011: Sony Bats for Solid Average

In a statement released to Mashable, Sony said: "This is not a corporate announcement. As for Sony's executive officers' appointment for 2012, nothing has been determined yet. We will decline any further comment."

A Sony executive who asked not to be identified told TheWrap that the company's board has not made a decision.

A Sony spokeswoman declined to comment to TheWrap on speculation.

Reports of Stringer stepping down as Sony's president date back more than a year. In mid-November, responding to a New York Post report that he would step down as CEO in March 2012, Stringer insisted he would be staying at Sony.

"No. I am not leaving this job," he said at a New York event hosted by the Wall Street Journal. "It depends on what the board says and all the rest of it, but no, I am fighting. I am up for this fight."

Stringer became chairman and CEO in June 2005. Three years ago, he added the title of president as part of a major restructuring in which he brought in several new top executives. The president mantle wasn't intended to be a permanent assignment, according to individuals close to the situation. In November 2010, Bloomberg reported that the title would likely pass to Hirai, who has worked closely with Stringer.

"They have different styles and strengths," said an individual with knowledge of the situation. The president mantle has "obvious significance," the individual added.

The individual also said a change in the role of president would not result in a change of focus for the company or affects its commitment to entertainment.

Sony shares have fallen more than 60 percent since Stringer assumed the role of chairman. On Friday, Sony's stock fell 1.57 percent to $17.44 in after-hours trading.

The Japanese consumer electronics giant, which was hammered by a tsunami and hacking woes last year, reported a $350 million loss for its most recent fiscal quarter on an unfavorable exchange rate and lower LCD TV sales. The company told investors in November that it would be reporting a fourth consecutive year of losses.

Sony also revised its guidance for its full fiscal year downward: It now forecasts a $90 billion yen loss (about $1.15 billion at current exchange rates) for the 12-month period ending March 31.

Hirai began working for CBS/Sony Inc. (now Sony Music Entertainment Japan) in 1984. He helped market coordination of international music in Japan and later led the company's international business affairs department.

In 1995, Hirai joined Sony Computer Entertainment America, assuming operational management of the company.

He has been named "mogul in the running" on Vanity Fair’s "New Establishment" list, and one of the most powerful business executives by Entertainment Weekly.

Brent Lang contributed to this report.

  • Dandelman

    It might be relevant to report that Stringer will turn 70 next month & that Hirai is 51 !