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Kaz Hirai steps down as Sony CEO, moves to chairman role

CEO of the company since 2012, Hirai's time as chief executive saw Sony focus more on gaming and phones. He'll transition from CEO to chairman on April 1.

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Kazuo "Kaz" Hirai, who for years has been one of Sony's most recognizable faces, is stepping down from his position as company CEO. On April 1 he'll move into a new role: chairman.

He'll be replaced by Kenichiro Yoshida, Sony's chief financial officer since 2013, Sony announced on Thursday

The duo have worked closely over the past few years, during which time they greatly improved Sony's finances by aiming to bolster its gaming, phone and component divisions while eliminating less successful ones, like the Vaio line of laptops

"As the company approaches a crucial juncture, when we will embark on a new mid-range [corporate] plan, I consider this to be the ideal time to pass the baton of leadership to new management, for the future of Sony and also for myself to embark on a new chapter in my life," Hirai said in a press release statement.

A year after Hirai's appointment as CEO, the company in May 2013 posted its first net profit in five years. Hours after Hirai's position change was announced, Sony posted its earnings report for the final quarter of 2017, stating a 239 percent increase in operating income, to 3.1 billion.

Hirai first rose to prominence through his work at Sony Computer Entertainment, where he helped launch the wildly popular PlayStation 2 and its successor, the PlayStation 3. He was made president of Sony Computer Entertainment after the PS3's launch, replacing Ken Kutaragi, the "father of PlayStation." He remained in charge of Sony's gaming arm until 2011, when he moved to Sony HQ ahead of his 2012 appointment as CEO of the whole company.

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Originally posted Feb 1, 9:45 p.m. PT.

Update, Feb 1, 11:53 p.m PT: Adds information on Sony's earnings report.

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