As had been expected, Sony Corp. today announced that Kazuo Hirai has been appointed as president and chief executive officer, effective April 1. Sir Howard Stringer, who currently holds those offices in addition to chairman, will become chairman of the board of directors in June.

Sony hinted at the transition in March when Hirai (pictured) was named executive deputy to Stringer and put in charge of straightening out the company’s troubled consumer electronics business. Even having lost its position as the world’s top television brand, consumer products and services account still account for Sony’s consolidated annual sales of approximately $87 billion it recorded for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2011.

It’s been one heck of a year, however, even without the internal difficulties and increasing competition from companies like Samsung. Sony has had to cope with tragedies like Japan’s earthquake and tsunami, and with traumas like the hacker assault on the PlayStation Network.

Hirai expressed his gratitude to Stringer and the board, and his appreciation of their confidence in him. “As challenging as times are for Sony now, were it not for the strong leadership of Sir Howard Stringer these past seven years, we would have been in a much more difficult position.”

He also laid out his three main priorities for Sony. “The path we must take is clear: to drive the growth of our core electronics businesses – primarily digital imaging, smart mobile and game; to turn around the television business; and to accelerate the innovation that enables us to create new business domains,” Hirai said.

Stringer said he and the board have been working on succession plans for three years, and as part of that Hirai was among the “new generation of leaders” named in 2009 to be part of Stringer’s management team. He also said he had recommended Hirai as his replacement, since Hirai had distinguished himself through his work as head of all things PlayStation and by his work with networked entertainment businesses in general.

Current chairman Yotaro Kobayashi previously said that he will formally announce his retirement at the annual shareholders meeting in June, freeing that position for Stringer pending the board’s approval. It is expected that Hirai will be appointed to the board at the same time.

“Kaz is a globally focused executive for whom technology and the cloud are familiar territory, content is highly valued, and digital transformation is second nature,” Stringer said. “I believe his tough-mindedness and leadership skills will be of great benefit to the company and its customers in the months and years ahead.”

Speaking on behalf of the board, Kobayashi said, “The board is grateful to Sir Howard Stringer for all he has done to help Sony travel such a long and vital way down the road from an analogue to a digital company. He has clearly recognized the importance of connecting our tremendous products with networks and content so that our devices come fully alive in the hands of consumers.”

Related links:

Sony Global –

Press release –

Mainichi Times – Sony deputy president Hirai to replace Stringer

Reuters – Hirai to take new posts April 1, Stringer remains chairman

Financial Times – Hirai to take the reins at Sony in April

Bloomberg – Sony Names Hirai President, CEO Succeeding Howard Stringer

Photo by Tokyoship, used under Creative Commons license