After a six-year stint as the CEO, Kaz Hirai has announced that he is stepping down from the role. Starting April 1, Hirai will transition to a chairman role within the company. Sony's chief financial officer Kenichiro Yoshida will be taking over as president and CEO from April 1.
Hirai was instrumental in turning Sony's fortunes around by focusing on the imaging sensors, gaming, and entertainment units while selling off less successful businesses like the VAIO line. The move — along with a strategic acquisition of Toshiba's component business — allowed Sony to rise to the top in the image sensor segment, with the company supplying camera sensors for a plethora of flagships.
According to Variety, Hirai's decision to step down was because he was "worn down from the travel schedule he's maintained during the past six years as CEO." The executive is reportedly planning to spend more time with his family in California, but he could take an active role in Sony's entertainment division as chairman.
In a statement, Hirai said:
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.
Before his ascension to the helm, Hirai worked at Sony Computer Entertainment, where he was pivotal in launching the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3 consoles. He eventually went on to become the CEO of SCE, and took over from Howard Stringer as Sony CEO in 2012.
For his part, Kenichiro Yoshida — who was appointed as Sony CFO back in 2013 — said he was looking to build on the foundations set by Hirai and take "reform measures" designed to achieve long-term growth:
I will aim to build on the business foundations established by Mr. Hirai, and execute further reform measures that enhance our competitiveness as a global enterprise, and enable us to realize long-term profit growth.
My first priority will be to finalize our next mid-range corporate plan starting in April, together with our immediate business plan for the fiscal year 2018, and then move ahead swiftly with implementation.