President and co-chief executive officer, Sony Corp. (last year No. 7)
ADDRESS President's Room, 6-7-35 Kita-Shinagawa, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo 141, Japan
BIO Since its inception in war-torn Tokyo, Sony has always earned its bread and butter with stand-alone electronics products. From the transistor radio to the Walkman and Camcorder, Sony has made billions of dollars by delivering better, cooler and smaller electronics. Now the corporation is moving into the wired age by developing products for a consumer-electronics world that is interconnected by everything from satellites to the Internet. Today's buzz word is convergence, and Idei is working hard to put Sony in place at the forefront of the market where hardware and software meet. It is a fitting role for Sony's cosmopolitan leader, who speaks English and French and hangs out in Tokyo's jazz clubs, where he knows the singers by their first names.
1998 POWER PLAY Idei's friendship with fellow wired leader Bill Gates paid off this year when Sony announced a partnership with Microsoft to produce products for the Windows CE platform. An interactive cable-television product with Net access is expected next year. While Sony's movie studio doesn't seem to have solved all its problems yet--that overhyped lizard was a bomb--the Mavica digital camera and the new Vaio SuperSlim notebook computer mark two successful additions to the product line.
PLACE YOUR BETS Even a worldwide heavyweight such as Sony has not been immune to the Asian economic decline. For the quarter ending in June, Sony reported a 4.9% drop in operating income. But with its worldwide revenues of $48.67 billion, you can be assured that Sony will weather this storm. Analysts call Sony's ADRs a moderate buy.