| TOKYO, March 2
TOKYO, March 2 Sony Corp (6758.T) Chairman and
CEO Howard Stringer is not one to air his grievances in public.
But after three and a half years at the helm of the
fractious electronics giant, the ex-TV journalist could not
resist a mild dig at his Japanese managers' failure to
eliminate corporate bureaucracy.
"Have I broken down all the silo walls? No. Are they very
strong and very thick? Yes ... Inside Japan, there are quite a
lot of important silos," Stringer told a news conference on
Friday to announce a change in management.
Next month, Welsh-born Stringer will take over President
Ryoji Chubachi's position and head Sony's electronics division,
which makes Bravia flat TVs, Cybershot digital cameras and
Handycam camcorders. [ID:nT212310].
A dual U.S. and British citizen, Stringer was handpicked by
his predecessor Nobuyuki Idei, who hoped Stringer's command of
movies, TV and other content would balance and guide Chubachi's
passion for hardware.
But the Oxford-educated former screenwriter must have been
frustrated at engineer-trained Chubachi's unyielding conviction
that Sony's recovery had to come from manufacturing technology
alone, observers say.
"I think he waited for Chubachi to come around, until he
just couldn't wait any longer," said Seiichiro Yonekura,
professor of economics at the Institute of Innovation Research
at Hitotsubashi University.
"He's a good guy. And like many good guys, his timing may
not be the best."
The inventor of hit products of yesterday -- including the
Trinitron TV and Walkman cassette player -- now faces its
biggest ever annual loss on weak demand and climbing
Stringer hopes to realise the goals he laid out when he
became chairman in 2005: excite consumers with software and
That is as a deepening global slowdown dims prospects for a
quick recovery, and Sony appears vulnerable in the absence of
recent hit electronics products such as rival Apple Inc's
(AAPL.O) iPod and Nintendo Co Ltd's 7974.OS Wii.
But Stringer, who at CBS helped boost Dan Rather to the top
of U.S. news ratings and wooed comedian David Letterman from a
rival network, now has allies in key slots to help him.
Sony appointed Kazuo Hirai, head of the group's video game
business, and Hiroshi Yoshioka, head of its TV business, to
make its electronics more user-friendly and network-enabled in
a bid to take on Apple and Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O).
"Stringer chose people who had been abroad -- people he can
communicate with," said Kazuharu Miura, analyst at Daiwa
Institute of Research. "He picked people who will follow
The future of Sony hinges on whether or not Stringer, who
spends two weeks a month in Japan, can unite a firm that is
emerging from an internal power struggle between its software
and hardware businesses.
"Sony's ability to manufacture hit products is crippled by
office politics and bureaucracy," said Yoshihisa Toyosaki,
president of IT consultancy J-Star Global and a former Sony
"It could have come up with the iPod first, but it just
didn't. The rest is history."
(Editing by Ian Geoghegan)