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Sony CEO, world commuter

Sony's new honcho will be racking up enough frequent flier miles for a first-class upgrade to the moon.

If you thought you had a tough commute, think again.

Howard Stringer, the new chief executive of Sony, will be spanning three continents as part of his regular work travel.

Stringer, who before being named CEO was in charge of Sony's U.S. business operations, plans to continue working from his New York office while making frequent trips to the company's main headquarters, more than 8,000 miles away in Tokyo, a company representative said. Stringer, who holds both U.S. and British passports, will also continue trips to England, where his wife and children live.


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The distance could prove challenging for Stringer. While Sony's products are sold throughout the world, its corporate and subsidiary offices are mostly located in Japan. In addition, the majority of the company's top brass is also located in Tokyo.

"It's probably not the ideal situation," said Peter Felix, president of the Association of Executive Search Consultants. "And I'm sure it will be tough for him. But a lot of executives work in a 24-7 global environment where they are expected to know what's happening all over the world."

Sony's choice to promote Stringer is a bold move for the company that many see as highly unorthodox for a variety reasons, the least of which being that Stringer neither lives in Japan nor speaks Japanese.

But the company's choice points to a bigger trend in the changing dynamics of the business culture. In today's global marketplace, it matters much less where top executives are based, since many spend more time on planes than they do in the executive suite, Felix said. The emergence of new technologies such as instant messaging and personal-computing devices such as BlackBerrys have made it even easier for executives to work and communicate from anywhere in the world.

Felix points out that although we normally associate companies with a single country, many are, in fact, much more global.

"Look at IBM," he said. "It's an icon of American business, but a large portion of that company's business comes from outside the United States. It doesn't really make much difference where the CEO is, because the business and customers are throughout the world. True multinational companies transcend borders and cultures."