Norio Ohga, Sony Corp.’s chairman of the board, said Tuesday he will step down for health reasons.
The move takes effect Wednesday, his 73rd birthday. Ohga will assume the position of honorary chairman on Thursday.
Ohga, who took on the current post in 2000, became president and chief operating officer in 1982 and chairman and chief executive officer in 1995. He joined Sony in 1959.
Nobuyuki Idei, chairman and CEO of Sony, said Ohga informed the board of his intention during a meeting Thursday. Idei will become acting chairman until the regular general meeting of shareholders scheduled for June.
Ohga’s resignation effectively helps to consolidate Idei’s position as the firm’s chief executive.
The Sony veteran has suffered poor health since collapsing from a stroke in Beijing two years ago while conducting an orchestra.
“My physical movement has been very awkward, and I am not comfortable with the idea of being the top executive of Sony in such a state,” he said during a hastily arranged news conference in Tokyo.
The graduate of Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and the Berlin University of Arts, Ohga’s life seemed destined for music.
However, the late Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita, legendary founding fathers of Sony, urged Ohga to join the then still fledgling maker of transistor radios.
“I was thinking of becoming a musician, but (the two) forcefully changed my life,” reminisced Ohga. “Though different from each other, the two were the same in that they are geniuses. I am so proud of myself that I jointly managed the firm with them.”
Ohga has been writing a monthlong memoir in a business daily, in which he recounts how the firm has brought a series of ground breaking products, including the CD and the PlayStation game console, to the world.
His career with Sony has been far-reaching and paralleled the organic growth of the consumer electronics giant, being involved in the development of a variety of hit products and heading CBS/Sony Records in its early days.
One of Ohga’s greatest contributions to the firm is said to have been his rigorous drive for fashionable design, helping make Sony one of the world’s most popular consumer brands.
As the firm’s design czar, he was known as a perfectionist, refusing to compromise on even the smallest details in product designs and advertising, and changing company logos numerous times to suit the times.
While expressing little concern over those following him in Sony’s management ranks, he painted a bleak picture of the managers of the country as a whole.
“We really need a genius for the leader of the country today,” he said. “But there aren’t any.”
Separately, Sony said it will change its management structure in order to align its corporate governance functions with the revised Commercial Code, which is scheduled to take effect on April 1.
Adopting one option offered under the revised code, Sony will establish nomination, audit and compensation committees under its board at the end of June.
Each of the committees will be composed of a majority of outside directors.
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