Toshiba Names New President

Electronics giant named Norio Sasaki as president, joining a string of other Japanese companies in shuffling management amid a crippling recession.

TOKYO (AP) -- Toshiba Corp. said Wednesday it has named a new president, joining a string of other Japanese companies in shuffling management amid a crippling recession.

The electronics giant said its board of directors nominated Corporate Senior Executive Vice President Norio Sasaki, an expert in nuclear energy, as president and chief executive officer.

"My biggest task is to unite our group companies and employees as one to overcome the difficult time and turn around the business as quickly as possible," Sasaki told a news conference at company headquarters in Tokyo.

Sasaki, 59, will officially replace Atsutoshi Nishida in June after approval at a shareholders' meeting, the two executives said. The decision by the board of directors was based on a recommendation from Nishida, 65, who will become chairman.

"The business environment surrounding our company is extremely severe. I decided it would be best for both management and employees to pursue our business under a new leader," Nishida said.

Toshiba appears to be trying to show its determination to make a turnaround amid the global economic crisis. Sasaki has managed its heavy electric machinery operations, including nuclear power generation and equipment.

The company sank into the red in the third quarter and has projected a net loss for the full fiscal year, citing declining demand for its flash memory chips used to store data in consumer gadgets such as music players and digital cameras.

In January, Toshiba announced a plan to cut 4,500 contract workers and delay or cancel investments in new chip plants.

"Having compiled and mapped out the restructuring program, I've completed a phase," the outgoing president said. "Now it's time to hand it over to a person with a clear vision of Toshiba's future and a determination to achieve the goal."

A mechanical engineer, Sasaki joined Toshiba in 1972 and has spent most of his career on nuclear power plant design and systems.

He played a major role in Toshiba's purchase of leading U.S. nuclear power company Westinghouse Electric Co. in 2006, a deal Nishida has said "would determine the future of Toshiba."

Interest in nuclear power has been growing because of concerns about global warming and efforts to reduce dependence on oil. Nuclear energy is also considered crucial for resource-poor Japan, though safety concerns persist.

"In order to provide the energy safely and economically, it requires a long-term view, an ability to think comprehensively and make a rational decision," Sasaki said.

Toshiba's reshuffle follows similar management changes at Toyota Motor Corp. -- which has tapped Akio Toyoda, grandson of the founder, as new president -- Honda Motor Co., and Hitachi Ltd. Autos and electronics have been among the worst-hit industries in the ongoing global crisis.

Hitachi announced Monday a plan to replace its president and split off its automotive systems and consumer electronics operations in July.

Hitachi named Takashi Kawamura, 69, who heads two of its subsidiaries -- Hitachi Plant Technologies Ltd. and Hitachi Maxwell Ltd. -- as president, chief executive and chairman. He officially is to replace Kazuo Furukawa in late June.

Toshiba announced its move as trading closed. Its stock rose 0.4 percent to 258 yen on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

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