Sony chairman Howard Stringer to step down in June
Howard Stringer, who fought to bring a divided and struggling Sony together as the Japanese electronics and entertainment company’s first foreign president, is retiring as chairman in June.
He announced his departure in New York in a speech at the Japan Society on Friday, which was confirmed by Tokyo-based Sony on Sunday. His retirement will come at an annual general shareholders’ meeting in June.
Stringer, a Welsh-born American and 15-year employee at Sony, became president in 2005, when the once glorious maker behind the Walkman portable player was first starting to get slammed by the flashier Apple and the nimbler Samsung Electronics.
The company, which makes the PlayStation 3 game console as well as “Spider-Man” movies, is still struggling. It has lost money for the last four years, and racked up its biggest loss in its 67-year history for the fiscal year through March last year.
Stringer said he was ready to retire after handing over the helm last year to Kazuo Hirai. Stringer groomed Hirai, longtime head of Sony’s video-game unit, who led its relative success as a brand in the US market, to be his successor.
“I was pleased to hand the reins to Kazuo Hirai last year because I saw in him the right mix of skills to lead Sony, and I knew it was the right time to bring about generational change,” Stringer said in the speech.
“Over the course of the past year, he has come into his own and is leading Sony with vision and authority.”
Stringer said he will remain busy with charity work in education and medicine, and will continue as chair of the American Film Institute.
Hirai credited Stringer in the next-generation video-format battle by leading the Blu-ray camp, which included Sony, to victory; for pursuing efficiency and cost reductions, and expanding the film and music businesses to become “key profit drivers.”
“Howard’s unwavering dedication and leadership throughout his tenure as CEO enabled us to form the foundation to overcome huge challenges and the path to future growth,” Hirai said in a statement.
“I was able to learn so much from him as a business leader and person, particularly his incomparable ability to inspire and invigorate all of those around him.”
Before joining Sony in 1997, Stringer had a 30-year career as a journalist, producer and executive at CBS His pivotal role was seen as developing strategic links between the entertainment and electronics business — a plan Sony has pursued for years but is still not fully realised.
While president, Stringer pinpointed as the major problem the divisions within Sony’s sprawling empire he disparagingly named “silos.” He reorganised the company, ended unprofitable businesses like the robot project and slashed thousands of jobs. He also encouraged collaborations.
Hirai has followed with the same effort under the slogan “One Sony.” Sony has recently come out with smartphones and other products that have gotten good reviews. But it is still losing money in its core TV division.
Some critics say playing catch-up with Apple and Samsung isn’t enough, and Sony needs to pioneer an entire consumer electronics sector, as it once did with the Walkman.
But Stringer said he was ready to move on.
“A new world is opening up for me, too,” he said.