(Bloomberg) – Nobuyuki Idei, former CEO of Sony Group Corp., has died of liver failure. He was 84 years old.
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Idei, who joined the company in 1960 and served as CEO from 1998 to 2005, died June 2 in Tokyo, the company said in a statement.
“Idei was surely a visionary leader capable of making management decisions that looked ahead 20 to 30 years,” said Atsushi Osanai, a professor at Waseda Business School who previously worked in Sony’s television business.
The former CEO represented a generation of executives who spent their early careers under the direct tutelage of Sony founder Akio Morita. Tasked with finding new ways for the company to expand overseas, Idei cultivated an aura of sophistication and could be seen hanging out with Hollywood executives wearing white blazers. He told journalists that his generation could get by abroad, without inferiority complex, thanks to the efforts of his predecessors.
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Idei has held senior positions in Sony’s audio, home video and creative communications divisions, according to the statement. During his tenure as CEO, Sony advanced its PlayStation gaming business and introduced the second generation of the console which has since become the company’s most prominent product line.
He led Sony’s transition to becoming an IT company, linking its electronics to the internet just as it was becoming a global phenomenon. His accomplishments at Sony include the launch of the VAIO personal computer brand, a joint venture with Ericsson on mobile phones, and the So-net internet service provider business, where current CEO Kenichiro Yoshida learned to run a company.
“The experiences and learning I gained there marked a turning point in my career and my life, and in many ways connects directly to my management of Sony today,” Yoshida said in the statement. . “During his seven years as CEO from 1998, Mr. Idei made an immense contribution to Sony’s evolution as a global company.
But Idei’s years at Sony weren’t all rosy, especially the latter period when Apple Inc. took over as a pioneer in consumer electronics with the release of the iPod and iTunes. . Sony was forced to cut its losses and stop its more experimental robotics business developing products like the AIBO robot dog and the Qrio humanoid. Idei has faced further criticism for his chosen successor, Sir Howard Stringer, whose tenure has compounded Sony’s problems.
After leaving Sony, Idei started his own consultancy, Quantum Leaps Corp., focusing on finding and funding promising technology companies and projects. He was also a member of the boards of General Motors Co. and Baidu Inc..
(Updates with more details on Idei’s career; a previous version corrected the announcement date)
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