Tokyo - Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. (SCEI) announced a shift in top management today, as chairman Akiro Sato will retire and current president and group CEO Kazuo Hirai will succeed him as chairman.
Sato's retirement will take effective on Aug 31. Ken Kutaragi, honorary chairman of SCEI, also retired, effective yesterday.
Andrew House, president/CEO/co-COO of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE), was promoted to fill the position of president/group CEO of SCEI, effective Sept. 1.
New chairman Hirai's full title will be representative corporate executive officer and executive deputy president, Sony Corporation, and president of the consumer products and services group (CPSG).
Sony said Hirai "will accelerate the implementation of a faster, stronger and integrated strategy to create new user experience and generate added value by uniting hardware, content and network, both for the home and on the go, while further accelerating the development of the PlayStation business in close collaboration with House."
SCEI deputy president Kunimasa Suzuki will remain in his current position.
New SCEI president House joined Sony in 1990, beginning in corporate communications, and moved on to the marketing and communications division which launched the original PlayStation game console. He was promoted to marketing VP of Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA), where he led efforts to establish the North American market for the PlayStation as well as formulating and executing the market strategies which led to the successful launch of the PlayStation2 and PSP businesses, Sony said in a statement.
House was appointed chief marketing officer of Sony Corp. in 2005, with global responsibility for corporate marketing across all businesses, with primary emphasis in building brand value. During his tenure, House led the effort to establish Sony's new group brand message, "make.believe."
In May 2009, House took over SCEE, managing the PlayStation business across nearly 100 countries in the European/PAL territories, including the company's PlayStation2, PSP, PlayStation3 platforms, and PlayStation Network.
Sony said House's main focus will be on reinforcing and further accelerating its PlayStation business, including heading up the launch of the next-generation PlayStation Vita, which is rumored to be Nov. 4, in time for the holiday selling season. Sony has not confirmed that date.
In House's absence, Jim Ryan, executive VP and co-COO of SCEE, will assume the role of SCEE president/CEO on Sept. 1.
The retiring Sato joined SCEI in 1993 as one of the founding members, and eventually rose to deputy president/COO. In November 2005, he stepped down from operating responsibilities, and after resuming his executive role as vice chairman in December 2006, and as chairman from July 2009, "he worked tirelessly to help guide the entire SCE group operation," Sony said.
Hirai said in a statement: "In fiscal 2010, we achieved profitability for the first time in five years as a result of group-wide united efforts, including continuous cost reduction for PS3 in which I first took the initiative after assuming president of SCEI in December 2006. We are facing new challenges this year, such as the successful launch of PlayStation Vita and further growth of PS3 platform as well as expansion of nongaming business. I'm confident that the skills and expertise [House] has gained over two decades working for Sony and SCE Group will contribute enormously in leading the PlayStation business and to bring new initiatives in managing the business in the networked era.
"SCE has benefited tremendously from Sato-san in establishing the PlayStation brand as well as in expanding its businesses worldwide," Hirai continued. "I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Sato-san for the countless contributions he has made to the PlayStation business and wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors."
"It has been a wonderful experience with PlayStation since the company's founding in 1993," said Sato. "I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the great support from third-party game developers and publishers and particularly to the wonderful creators all over the world. Without the great content from a wide spectrum of genres made by third-party game developers and publishers, as well as SCE Worldwide Studios, PlayStation would not be where it is now."
In other company news, first reported by Bloomberg, the company's annual report, released today, disclosed that Sony Corp. is being investigated by the U.S. Justice Department's antitrust division, as part of a wider investigation into competition and possible price-fixing in the rechargeable lithium-ion battery business.
The Tokyo-based company's U.S. subsidiary, Sony Electronics, received the request for information on May 3, a Sony spokesman told Bloomberg. He declined to comment further on the scope of the investigation.