Sony Corp. Chairman Kazuo Hirai, the architect of a turnaround at the once-dominant Japanese electronics giant, will retire from the company in June after a tenure more than three decades.
Hirai, who ceded the role of chief executive officer to Kenichiro Yoshida in April 2018, will retire with effect from June but continue to advise the company, Sony said in a statement.
Hirai, who took over as CEO from Howard Stringer in 2012, turned the company’s fortunes around by paring back and refocusing its operations. With Yoshida’s support, Hirai sold off the Vaio personal computer business, reshaped the television set unit and pulled the mobile business back from a destructive fight for market share. He also invested heavily in the PlayStation games business and image sensors used in smartphones, now major drivers of the business.
Shares rebounded during his tenure as the company’s finances improved. The stock tripled during his years as CEO, about double the return of the benchmark Topix index.
“Since passing the baton of CEO to Yoshida-san last April, as chairman of Sony, I have had the opportunity to both ensure a smooth transition and provide support to Sony’s management,” Hirai said in Thursday’s statement. “As such, I have decided to depart from Sony, which has been a part of my life for the past 35 years.”
With fewer games in store for the aging PlayStation 4 and Sony’s own Xperia phone business bleeding money, CEO Yoshida will now have to prove that its turnaround can continue instead of peaking this year. The mobile division continues to struggle, with an operating loss of 15.5 billion yen during the quarter, the fourth straight period. Yoshida has so far rebuffed pressure to sell off the unit, saying it is vital for pushing innovation including 5G-related research.