Nobuyuki Idei, who led Sony from 1998 to 2005, driving its growth in the digital and entertainment sectors, has died aged 84, the company has announced.
Mr. Idei died of liver failure on June 2 in Tokyo, the tech giant said in a statement.
Sony Chief Executive Kenichiro Yoshida said he and the company are indebted to Mr. Idei’s vision in preparing Sony for the internet age.
“During his seven years as CEO from 1998, Mr. Idei made immense contributions to Sony’s evolution as a global company,” he said.
“In particular, the foresight and foresight with which he predicted the impact of the internet and proactively engaged in digitalization at Sony still amazes me today.”
Tokyo-based Sony is among Japan’s leading brands, having brought the Walkman portable music player to the world.
But it had humble beginnings in the 1940s, when the nation was rebuilding from the ashes of World War II.
Sony was founded by Akio Morita, who co-wrote The Japan That Can Say No, which advocates a more assertive and proud Japan, and Masaru Ibuka.
In the 1970s, when Sony was developing the Walkman, some engineers were skeptical, but Morita insisted people listen to music on the go.
Mr. Idei joined Sony in 1960 after graduating from the prestigious Waseda University in Tokyo and worked in its audio and video divisions.
He was named chairman in 1995 and is credited with being behind successful products such as the Vaio laptop computer.
He became chief executive three years later, handpicked by Norio Ohga, who ran Sony in the 1980s and 1990s and was a flamboyant music lover who played a key role in the company’s development of the compact disc.
Mr. Idei pushed Sony’s digital operations under the slogan Digital Dream Kids.
He also accelerated Sony’s global expansion, including the PlayStation video game business and Sony’s sprawling entertainment empire that includes music and movies.
Mr. Idei has also consolidated a global group management framework and corporate governance structure within the company.
He was appointed head of the Japanese government’s IT Strategy Council in 2000, helping the country build broadband networks.
He was replaced by Howard Stringer, the first non-Japanese person to lead Sony, an appointment intended to better integrate Sony’s electronics and entertainment businesses.
This upheaval in 2005 came at a time of growing concerns over whether Sony could revive its electronics business in the face of cheaper competition from Asian rivals.
Sales of products that were once the mainstay of Sony power, such as televisions and portable players, had plunged.
In 2003, under Mr. Idei’s leadership, Sony shares plunged into what has been dubbed the “Sony Shock” after it reported worse than expected red ink.
Sony had repeatedly promised to generate profits from futuristic gadgets that download network-connected home entertainment, allowing the company to tap into both its electronics and entertainment divisions.
“Sony’s shock was a shock to us too,” Mr. Idei said at the time.
“We want to turn the shock into something positive.”
After retiring from Sony, Mr. Idei founded the consulting firm Quantum Leaps which focused on reshaping businesses and nurturing a next generation of leaders.
Mr. Idei is survived by his wife and their daughter, according to Sony.
A private funeral service has been held with immediate family and a company memorial event in his honor is planned for a later date, he said.