Kazuo "Kaz" Hirai (平井 一夫, Hirai Kazuo, born December 22, 1960) is the President and CEO of Sony Corporation. He also serves as a member of the board of Sony Interactive Entertainment, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Sony. He was noted by Entertainment Weekly as one of the most powerful executives in the entertainment industry. Hirai became the President and CEO of Sony on April 1, 2012.
Kazuo Hirai was born in 1960 in Tokyo, Japan, where he attended the American School in Japan. Between 1973 and 1976, Hirai attended Valley Park Middle School in Toronto. The son of a wealthy banker, Hirai often traveled with his father across the world to California, New York, and Canada and around Japan — a trait which Hirai noted to be a major factor in his later multi-continental business success.
It was his interest in games that later brought him into the entertainment business. After graduating from the International Christian University in August 1984 with a Bachelor of Liberal Arts degree, Hirai was hired at CBS/Sony Inc. (now Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) Inc.), where he was involved in marketing international music within Japan. He eventually became head of Sony Computer Entertainment Japan's international business affairs office in New York.
Kazuo Hirai began his career with Sony Music Entertainment Japan in 1984, starting out in CBS/Sony Inc.'s (now Sony Music Entertainment Japan) marketing department. Afterwards, becoming the head of Sony's international business affairs department. He then moved to Sony Music Japan’s New York office, leading the marketing of Sony Music Japan artists in the U.S.
Sony Computer Entertainment
In August 1995, Hirai joined Sony's computer and video game division, Sony Computer Entertainment America. Two years later, in 1997, Hirai was credited on his first completed video game. With the release of the PlayStation 2 in 2000, Kazuo continued his success, utilizing second-party video game franchises such as Jak and Daxter, Ratchet & Clank, Sly Cooper, and SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs series of games. Under his leadership, SCEA continually managed to retain high profits throughout the sixth generation era.
On July 3, 2006, Sony Computer Entertainment announced that Hirai had been made a vice president of its corporate executive group. On November 30, 2006, just under two weeks after the launch of PlayStation 3, Hirai replaced Ken Kutaragi as President of Sony Computer Entertainment. While maintaining his positions at SCEA, Hirai also became chief operating officer of SCEI. Kutaragi himself was promoted to chairman of SCEI, and remained chief executive officer of the group. On April 26, 2007, it was announced that Hirai will be promoted to President and Group CEO of SCEI, replacing Ken Kutaragi who would retire and instead take up the role of Honorary Chairman.
On April 1, 2009, Sony’s electronics and game businesses were merged and reconfigured as two major groups: the Consumer Products & Devices Group (CPDG) and the Networked Products & Services Group (NPSG). Hirai was appointed as Corporate Executive Officer and Executive Vice President of Sony Corporation, concurrently serving as president of the NPSG. He has overseen all development, production and marketing activities at the NPSG, comprising Sony's game (i.e. SCEI & Sony Online Entertainment), personal computer (VAIO), mobile devices (including Walkman and Xperia) and network service (Sony Entertainment Network, including online distributions of music, video, games, eBooks, etc.) businesses and new business incubation projects. Hirai became Chairman of Sony Computer Entertainment on September 1, 2011 and was replaced by Andrew House as President and Group CEO. He retired as Chairman of SCEI on June 25, 2012 but remains on the board of directors.
On April 1, 2011, Hirai was promoted to Representative Corporate Executive Officer and Executive Deputy President of Sony Corporation. He oversaw the Consumer Products & Services Group. Hirai was speculated to become the successor to Howard Stringer, the current sitting president and CEO of Sony Corporation, who was then expected to step down in 2013.
On February 1, 2012, Sony announced that Hirai has been appointed as President and Chief Executive Officer, effective April 1, 2012. He was appointed to the Board at the annual shareholders meeting on June 27, 2012.