Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Sony So Long Co-Founder of Giant Firm Retires at 73

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Sony So Long Co-Founder of Giant Firm Retires at 73

Article excerpt

The last major Japanese industrial pioneer retired Friday as chairman of Sony Corp. after leading Japan's rise to a maker of the electronic machines the world watches and listens to.

Akio Morita, 73, co-founded Sony in a bombed-out storefront after World War II, going on to create the TVs, Walkmans and CD players sold around the world by a $36 billion-a-year conglomerate.

It was the second blow in two weeks to Sony, whose stock plunged more than 5 percent last week after it said it was writing $2.7 billion off the value of the Hollywood movie studios it bought with great fanfare in 1989.

Sony rose $1.25 Friday on the New York Stock Exchange to $51.75 per American depositary receipt, which allows U.S. citizens to invest in foreign companies. The announcement was made after the market closed in Japan.

One of the world's best-known Japanese, Morita is the last of a generation of industrialists that included carmaker Shoichiro Honda and electronics rival Konosuke Matsushita.

More than any other Japanese industrialist, Morita "is a founder that's really identified with the company," said industry analyst Joseph Osha of Baring Securities.

Morita suffered a debilitating stroke and underwent brain surgery last November. He has regained the ability to speak, but is reported to be weak and restricted to a wheelchair.

Sony said he submitted his resignation Nov. 16.

Morita will stay on as honorary chairman, Sony said. It did not announce a successor, but analysts said Sony President Norio Ohga was the most likely choice.

The tanned, snowy-haired Morita, who took up waterskiing in his 60s, also pioneered new behavior for corporate Japan. He pushed his engineers to take risks with new products and criticized lavishly paid American executives.

He caused a stir in 1989 by co-authoring "The Japan That Can Say `No' " with right-wing leader Shintaro Ishihara, and then refusing to authorize an English translation. Morita warned that America must revitalize its electronics industry by investing in research and development.

In the late 1980s, Morita called for many of the economic reforms now being carried out by Japan's government, but he reportedly declined an offer to become foreign minister in August 1993. …

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