American Barbarian at the Japanese Gate

Posted on March 8, 2005 
Filed Under Uncategorized

Sir Howard Stringer, a Welsh-born former journalist and TV executive of CBS, has taken over the reins of Sony.

The 63-year-old leader of Sony’s U.S. operations, who took up American citizenship in 1985, is the first non-Japanese leader for the Tokyo-based company.

He succeeds Nobuyuki Idei, 67, who is stepping down after five years and is only the second non-engineer to head the giant Japanese conglomerate.

Knighted in 2000, Sir Howard has quickly adapted to his adopted country’s butchering ways. As head of Sony’s U.S. operations he has eliminated 11,000 jobs. He has cut the number of TV pilots produced each year from 20 or more, to just a handful.

Stringer is credited for earning more than US$600m for Sony Pictures’ two Spider-Man films. Of course no mention is made on his resume of big-ticket duds such as Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, Ali, Jakob the Liar and The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc.

Neither is there a whiff in his bio of the ill-fated, colossal US$500m wreck of Tele-TV that Stringer presided over prior to his ‘successes’ with Sony.

He is also lauded as a merger-man, being credited for marrying Sony Music with Bertelsmann’s BMG unit and pushing the company to acquire Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s valuable film library, which includes the lucrative franchises of James Bond, the Pink Panther and Rocky series, among others.

He, however, was not blamed for Sony’s triple-flops of PSX, Vaio tablet and Clie; completely missing the rise of iPod and iTunes in his own backyard; nor his continued proprietary obsession that ties the company up in knots as pointed out by one-time Idei successor Ken Kutaragi.

Worse-still he went after blogger-darling Jason Kottke for innocently posting an audio transcript of the Jeopardy guy who finally lost.

Stringer in this speech shows his lack of technological skills and makes no apologies for it. When a neighbour, in the Hamptons no less, asks him to come over and help fix a video player for then Governor Bill Clinton’s daughter, he instead “fixes it” by replacing it with his own.

With that, Howard The Fixer Stringer vaults himself from techno-ignoramus, to “technician”, and a million service engineers around the world shake their heads and breathe a collective sigh of disdain. Here’s a man who goes on to label ‘technology’ as “the fool…a merry prankster subverting the best-laid plans of dynasties and tycoons”.

He calls technology the “Court Jester” that has

“aided piracy, which descended on the music industry like a plague of locusts. The 10 billion dollars stolen from the music companies over the last five years make The Great Train Robbers look truly amateur. It shows every intention of stripping the profits off film and video content as well if it goes unchecked, and digital pirates rarely seem to go to jail. It’s a battle we need to win, the alternative is bankruptcy.”

Watch this American knight, slash and burn, in search of the Holy Grail.

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