TOKYO Sony Corp's second-in-command, Kazuo Hirai, will relinquish day-to-day control of the company's videogames unit in September, making way for a Welsh-born Sony veteran just months after hackers launched a massive attack against the electronics giant.
A spokesman for Sony Computer Entertainment Inc (SCEI) denied that the changes had any connection with April's security breach, which leaked information on 77 million PlayStation Network user accounts and forced Sony to close the network for about a month.
Hirai, promoted in April to oversee all Sony's consumer businesses, is seen as the most favored candidate to succeed the company's 69-year-old chairman and CEO, Howard Stringer.
Fifty-year-old Hirai, who also currently serves as the president and group CEO of SCEI, will become chairman of the videogames unit.
Briton Andrew House, 46, will take over as the unit's new president and group CEO from September 1, the company said in a statement, effectively taking the reins. House is currently head of the videogames unit's European branch.
Analysts did not see the move as a setback for Hirai.
"He's in pole position to head the whole company, so he needs to focus on that, which is probably why they sought out a successor for the videogames business," said analyst Nobuo Kurahashi of Mizuho Investors' Securities agreed.
Current SCEI Chairman Akira Sato will retire on August 31, the company said.
(Reporting by Isabel Reynolds; Editing by Edmund Klamann and Joseph Radford)