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Sony ex-CEO Idei, who led digital giant into the internet age, dies at 84

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Nobuyuki Idei, who led Japan’s Sony from 1998 to 2005 and is given credit for the Vaio laptop, readied the company for the Internet age and pushed for global expansion in spite of the “Sony shock.”

Nobuyuki Idei, who led Japan’s Sony from 1998 to 2005 and is given credit for the Vaio laptop, readied the company for the Internet age and pushed for global expansion in spite of the “Sony shock.”

Nobuyuki Idei, who led Japan’s Sony from 1998 through 2005, overseeing its growth in the digital and entertainment sectors, has died, the company said Tuesday. He was 84.

Idei died of liver failure on June 2 in Tokyo, Sony Group Corp. said in a statement.

Sony Chief Executive Kenichiro Yoshida said he and the company were indebted to Idei’s vision in preparing Sony for the Internet age.

“During his seven years as CEO from 1998, Mr. Idei made an immense contribution to Sony’s evolution as a global company. In particular, the prescience and foresight with which he predicted the impact of the Internet and engaged proactively with digitalization across Sony amazes me to this day,” Mr. Yoshida said.

Tokyo-based Sony is among Japan’s stellar brands, having brought the world the Walkman portable music player. But it had humble beginnings in the 1940s, when the nation was rebuilding from the ashes of World War II.

Idei joined Sony in 1960, after graduating from Tokyo’s prestigious Waseda University, and worked in Sony’s audio and video divisions. He was appointed president in 1995, and is credited with being behind hit products such as the Vaio laptop.

He became chief executive three years later and pushed Sony’s digital operations under the slogan “Digital Dream Kids.” He also accelerated Sony’s global expansion, including the PlayStation video game business, and Sony’s sprawling entertainment empire which includes music and movies.

Idei also solidified a global group management framework and corporate governance structure at the company. He was appointed to lead Japan’s government IT Strategy Council in 2000, helping the nation set up broadband networks.

He was succeeded by Howard Stringer, the first non-Japanese head to lead Sony, an appointment meant to better integrate Sony’s electronics and entertainment businesses.

In 2003, under Idei’s helm, Sony stock tumbled in what was dubbed the “Sony shock” after it reported worse-than-expected red ink.

Sony had repeatedly promised to generate profits through futuristic gadgets that would let users stream and download entertainment, allowing the company to exploit both its electronics and entertainment divisions.

After his retirement from Sony, Idei established the consulting company Quantum Leaps Corp.

Idei is survived by his wife and their daughter, according to Sony. A private funeral service was carried out and a company memorial event is reportedly being planned.



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