Sony: The Private Life

Nathan, John

Published by HarperCollins Business, 2001
ISBN 10: 0006530915 / ISBN 13: 9780006530916
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Synopsis: Named one of the best business books of the year (by Fortune and Newsweek), SONY is the "intimate biography of one of the world's leading electronics giants" (San Francisco Chronicle) as well as one of the most fascinating and complex of all corporate stories. Drawing on his unmatched expertise in Japanese culture and on unique, unlimited access to Sony's inner sanctum, John Nathan traces Sony's evolution from its inauspicious beginnings amid Tokyo's bomb-scarred ruins to its current worldwide success. "Richly detailed and revealing" (Wall Street Journal), the book examines both the outward successes and, as never before, the mysterious inner workings that have always characterized this company's top ranks. The result is "a different kind of business book, showing how personal relationships shaped one of the century's great global corporations" (Fortune).

Review: Sony's cofounders, Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita, met near the end of World War II. Ibuka was an engineer with a childlike love for gadgetry and technology; Morita, a pragmatic physicist who arranged to be away from his military unit on the day Japan surrendered, fearful that all officers would be ordered to commit ritual suicide. (He guessed correctly.) Together they founded Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Co., Ltd., the forerunner of Sony, in 1946, using loans from Morita's wealthy family for startup capital. But even that wasn't as simple as it seems. First, Morita had to be released from his obligation, as first-born son, to take over the family sake business. The very Japaneseness of that moment goes a long way toward illustrating the exotic charm of Sony: The Private Life.

John Nathan is a professor of Japanese culture at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and speaks and understands the nuanced Japanese like a native. He was given extraordinary access to Sony employees, and found some of them telling him company secrets that had never been revealed to outsiders. (In international business, the electronics giant has traditionally been regarded as a black hole; information goes in, but it never comes out.) From these intimate revelations, he tells a story of a company that to Western observers always seemed like a bottom-line-oriented conglomerate. The reality, he writes, is that Sony has always operated via intense personal relationships and loyalties--in that sense, in a very Japanese way. Even the company's disastrous decision to buy Columbia Pictures came from top Sony executives' desire to honor Morita, who'd always wanted to own a movie studio. Although that decision ultimately cost Sony billions of dollars, it pleased the man who mattered. --Lou Schuler

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Sony: The Private Life
Publisher: HarperCollins Business
Publication Date: 2001
Book Condition: Good
Edition: New Ed.

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