New York: Sony board chairman Howard Stringer, who became the first non-Japanese executive to lead the company, said he will retire in June.
Stringer, 71, will step down at the company's annual shareholder meeting, the executive said on Friday in a speech at the Japan Society in New York. Kazuo Hirai, 52, succeeded him as chief executive almost a year ago.
A surprise choice for chief executive in June 2005, the Welsh-born Stringer struggled to bring Sony into a digital age where rivals offered phones and TVs with more features at often lower prices. Samsung topped Sony with its efficient manufacturing. Apple products such as the iPod and iPad and clever marketing forced Stringer to focus on cutting costs.
"Howard's achievements as chief executive of Sony are innumerable; from breaking down silos and driving 'Sony United,' to fundamentally realigning the focus of Sony's product development," Hirai said in a statement.
The Tokyo-based company, Japan's biggest consumer electronics exporter, said Stringer's successor will be decided after the June shareholder meeting. Stringer said he will probably sit on boards in the healthcare and education fields, and will continue as chairman of the American Film Institute, among other pursuits.
"A new world is opening up for me," Stringer said, according to a transcript provided by Jim Kennedy, a spokesman for the company. "That will allow me to move forward with new opportunities I've been presented with lately
Stringer had informed chief executive Hirai about his exit plan earlier this year, Shiro Kambe, a Tokyo-based Sony spokesman, said by phone yesterday. Sony's board will discuss replacement candidates and a final decision on Stringer's successor will be made after the June shareholder meeting, the spokesman said.
Hirai has been selling Sony assets, including the United States headquarters in New York and another building in Tokyo, to reach profitability. He wants to generate 70 per cent of revenue and 85 per cent of operating profit in Sony's electronics from games, digital imaging and mobile devices by March 2015.
The former head of the PlayStation unit has been continuing an effort led by Stringer to enable Sony's Bravia televisions, Handycam camcorders and Xperia phones to communicate with each other.
"Stringer had a real tough job when he took over the company," said Tim Bajarin, principal analyst and technology consultant at Creative Strategies in San Jose, California. "They've made some significant strides since, but still have some siloed businesses that still don't work in harmony the way they need to."
Sony gained 0.9 per cent to ¥1,464 in Tokyo on Friday. The stock has surged 53 per cent this year.