Chairman/CEO plans games, tech overhaul

TOKYO — Howard Stringer is taking a hard look at Sony’s hardware biz.

The Japanese conglom unveiled on Friday a major operational reorganization and management shakeup that comes just one month after the company disclosed that it faces record losses of $2.7 billion this year. Stringer will take on the job as prexy of Sony in addition to chairman and CEO.

Stringer has essentially ousted current prexy Ryoji Chubachi, who will become vice chairman as of April 1, charged with assisting Stringer and overseeing Sony’s environmental policies and product safety and quality efforts.

Sony is rejigging is core electronics biz, which has become a money loser after years of being the company’s main cash cow. It also will spotlight the games division, which has been struggling to boost profitability since the troubled PlayStation 3 rollout. Stringer, with all the reins of corporate power now in his hands, will direct the overhaul.

The changes will not affect Sony Music Entertainment or Sony Pictures Entertainment, which remain separate entities.

“This reorganization is designed to transform Sony into a more innovative, integrated and agile global company with its next generation of leadership firmly in place,” Stringer said at a news confab in Tokyo on Friday. He called the shakeup a move to “accelerate the transformation of the company that began four years ago. They will now make it possible for all of Sony’s parts to work together.”

Sony will form two business units: the Networked Products & Services Group, which will include Sony Computer Entertainment as well as its PC and mobile devices businesses; and the New Consumer Products Group, which will include televisions, digital cameras and camcorders.

The Networked Products & Services Group will be headed by SCE prexy-chief exec Kazuo Hirai, who will retain his position as head of Sony’s game biz. The New Consumer Products Group will be topped by Hiroshi Yoshioka, prexy of Sony’s TV Business Group. Yoshioka will also become Sony’s executive deputy president while turning over the TV group to Sony exec veep and Vaio biz boss Yoshihisa Ishida.

The move is seen as elevating Hirai’s profile despite the recent struggles of Sony’s games division. Sony observers said Hirai will be under pressure to implement Stringer’s vision of focusing on developing proprietary hardware and software products that are integrated to give Sony a greater market share in cutting-edge emerging platforms.

Sony has been hit hard by the strengthening yen and the global softening in demand for its products, including Bravia flat-panel TVs, Vaio PCs and PS3 consoles. Last month, Sony announced 16,000 job cuts worldwide, including 8,000 full-time staff. Stringer said Friday that he is targeting another $3 billion in cost cuts after scrutinizing weaknesses across the company’s vast electronics biz.

Sony stock fell 69% in 2008 after having gained for four years.

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