Sony President and CEO Kaz Hirai has announced that he is stepping down from the roles on April 1, 2018, six years after he initially accepted the positions. He is being replaced by Kenichiro Yoshida, Sony’s CFO. Hirai will transition to a new role within the company as director chairman.
“Ever since my appointment as President and CEO in April 2012, I have stated that my mission is to ensure Sony continues to be a company that provides customers with kando – to move them emotionally – and inspires and fulfills their curiosity,” Hirai said in a statement. “To this end, I have dedicated myself to transforming the company and enhancing its profitability, and am very proud that now, in the third and final year of our current mid-range corporate plan, we are expecting to exceed our financial targets.”
According to Sony chairman of the board Osamu Nagayama, Hirai’s decision was unexpected. “[W]e were initially surprised by his proposal to step down from the role of President and CEO, but over time and following extensive further discussions we ultimately reached a decision to respect his wishes,” he wrote. “The Nominating Committee had been regularly discussing potential management succession plans, and after receiving the proposal from Mr. Hirai, we engaged in renewed discussion, leading to the conclusion that Mr. Yoshida would be the ideal candidate to succeed Mr. Hirai as Sony President and CEO, and lead Sony into the future.”
Hirai took on the president and CEO roles from his predecessor, Howard Stringer, the company’s first Western CEO. Hirai, who was born in Tokyo but spent time in Canada and the U.S., was a bridge between East and West. Under his leadership, he helped revitalize the PlayStation brand from its second-place position in the industry during the PlayStation 3 era to its current position as top-selling console in the current hardware cycle.
Hirai has been a familiar face to gamers over the years, including his notoriously awkward PlayStation 3 presentation at E3 2006 (“Ridge Racer!”). His PlayStation cheerleading inspired a parody Twitter account, which, coincidentally, is also retiring this year.
Hirai has been an enthusiastic presence on the stage and in interviews for a long time now, and it’s surprising to see him move on. Here’s hoping he doesn’t make himself a stranger as his role shifts to less of a front-facing one.