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Sony Electronics makes changes at top

Executive shifts include a new president for Sony's U.S.-based unit, which is also closing a Texas chip plant. Meanwhile, the parent company eyes Net access for TVs.

Sony continues to revamp its management structure with changes in its electronics division and its Tokyo-based corporate executive ranks.

U.S.-based Sony Electronics on Monday announced Hideki "Dick" Komiyama as its new president and chief operating officer, as his predecessor, Fujio Nishida, moves on to Tokyo-based parent company Sony to become chief marketing officer and corporate senior vice president. The executive changes will be effective Tuesday.

Nishida, a 31-year Sony veteran, will report directly to Sony's chief operating officer, Kunitake Ando. He will develop global marketing strategies throughout Sony and will head up the company's worldwide Memory Stick business. Komiyama has been with Sony for 36 years and will be responsible for the daily operations of the electronics division. Sir Howard Stringer is the chief executive of the electronics division.

The electronics and entertainment giant has been working to restructure its management to improve corporate governance and create a more decentralized model so its divisions can react to the changing market with quicker decisions. Sony has been trying to take better advantage of the opportunities in making its entertainment properties available on its electronics devices, but the efforts have been slow to come to fruition.

To decentralize management, the company has assigned regional representatives in the Americas, Europe and East Asia and has created an overall management group consisting of COO Ando, Chief Executive Nobuyuki Idei and Chief Strategy Officer Teruhisa Tokunaka. Stringer will serve as vice chairman in the management group, and Ken Kutaragi will serve as an executive deputy president.

In related news, Sony is working with nine other Japanese companies to develop technical specifications for digital televisions so they can connect to the Internet. The goal of the specifications is to help the companies create digital televisions that allow consumers to watch broadcast TV and browse the Internet. The nine companies are Hitachi, Matsushita Electronics Industrial, Sharp, Sony, Toshiba, Sanyo Electric, Victor of Japan, Pioneer and Mitsubishi Electronics.

A joint research group will be established on April 14, with technical specifications to be finalized by this October.

Also, Sony Electronics said Monday that it is closing a chip plant in San Antonio, Texas. The closure will affect 600 employees, who were notified Friday of the cuts. Sony Electronics employs about 20,000 workers in North America. The company has been in San Antonio for about 13 years and has invested more than $400 million in the plant.

But slow demand is forcing Sony to shutter the plant, which creates parts for audio/video products and the telecommunications industry. Production at the plant will end by September, and the plant site will close down by the end of the year.