Ken Kutaragi, the 56-year-old "Father of the PlayStation," will end an era by retiring from his position as Sony Computer Entertainment chairman and CEO at the company's annual shareholders' meeting on June 19.
In a shocking announcement, Sony has revealed that the decision was made so that Kutaragi could "pass the torch on to the next generation," and so that he can "pursue his dreams beyond PlayStation and accelerate his network vision."
Taking over his position will be current SCEI president and COO Kazuo Hirai, who will be promoted to president and CEO.
Kutaragi commented, "I am happy to graduate from Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. after introducing four platforms to the PlayStation family. It has been an exciting experience to change the world of computer entertainment by marrying cutting-edge technologies with creative minds from all over the world. I'm looking forward to building on this vision in my next endeavours."
He will continue to "support" Sony Corporation chairman and CEO Sir Howard Stringer as a senior technology adviser for the company, along with serving as an honorary chairman of SCEI.
Kutaragi started his career at Sony immediately after graduation from the Tokyo University of Electro-Communications, and during the course of his long career at the company, he invented and launched the original PlayStation in 1994 and the PlayStation 2 in 2000.
However, during a management shake-up in 2005, Kutaragi was demoted from the Board of Directors and replaced as head of the home electronics division. Last year, another Sony reshuffle promoted Kutaragi from SCEI president and group CEO into the position of chairman and group CEO.
Stringer described Kutaragi as "a rare combination of a powerful visionary and entrepreneur." He added, "Not only has he created a multibillion-dollar business for the Sony Group, he has brought the industry into a new dimension. Sony has benefited tremendously from his vision, his creative genius, and from the very strong team he assembled and nurtured. As Ken moves forward to pursue new opportunities, we will encourage and support him. My support also goes to Kazuo Hirai, who is a terrific executive with a proven track record with PlayStation business in the US. I am confident that he will inspire and lead SCEI to new heights."
While Stringer's latest words were particularly glowing toward Kutaragi upon news of his departure, the Sony CEO didn't always have kind words for him. In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Stringer hinted at problems with Kutaragi, calling the Japanese executive "uncommunicative."