CFO Yoshida's Sony revamp wins over investors, tough decisions loom

Sat Feb 14, 2015 9:02pm EST
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By Ritsuko Ando and Reiji Murai

TOKYO (Reuters) - Months after Sony Corp bought So-net, the broadband provider's chief chided CEO Kazuo Hirai for having his "priorities in the wrong order".

He told Hirai his focus should be on restructuring the struggling electronics conglomerate rather than spending time and effort buying a firm it had previously spun off, said a person familiar with the exchange.

That was two years ago and Hirai was sufficiently impressed to hire Kenichiro Yoshida as Sony's chief strategy officer. Within months, he was promoted to chief financial officer.

Yoshida, a reserved foil to the more flamboyant "Kaz" Hirai, has since sought to turn around Sony with a no-nonsense program of cuts and targeted expansion that has won over investors, even as the Tokyo-based conglomerate prepares to post a sixth loss in seven years.

Yoshida is pushing each Sony division to take more responsibility for its performance, a direction that insiders say Sony is likely to confirm in a new multi-year business plan to be unveiled on Wednesday.

Colleagues say Yoshida's low-key demeanor conceals a straight-talker who is unafraid to ask tough questions.

Under Yoshida's knife, Sony sold its ailing Vaio personal computer division, a seismic shift for the group as this was an established, 17-year-old brand. He spun off the TV business and axed thousands of jobs across the company while raising spending on imaging sensors, a profitable segment and likely future profit driver.

Yoshida's overhaul is not only being felt in Japan; it has rattled Sony's traditionally autonomous Hollywood big shots.   Continued...

Sony Corp's Chief Financial Officer Kenichiro Yoshida drinks a glass of water during a news conference in Tokyo February 4, 2015. REUTERS/Yuya Shino