Fortt Knox

Kaz Hirai brought the 'missing DNA' back to Sony — now he's stepping down as CEO

Kazuo Hirai, CEO of Sony.
Justin Solomon | CNBC

Sony has rediscovered its "missing DNA," outgoing CEO Kaz Hirai has said.

"We're here to wow people," Hirai told CNBC for Fortt Knox in January.

"That was the missing DNA, and I think we had lost it somewhere along the way because we decided we're going to compete on price features and functionality," Hirai said.

"Now you've got to do that, but that's not what Sony is about," he said. "Sony is about providing products that really wow people — like, oh my god you can really do this?"

Hirai is stepping down as CEO after nearly 35 years at the pioneering electronics company. He'll be replaced by CFO Kenichiro Yoshida, effective April 1.

Before taking the top role in 2012, Hirai worked on the company's music and entertainment teams. He was tasked with the company's turnaround, after the once leading consumer electronics group lost its footing to hardware giant Apple and Asian rivals.

Under Hirai, the company expanded the functionality of its PlayStation gaming consoles and shifted to a subscription-based model for its legacy music segment.

At the annual CES conference in January, Sony introduced high-end phones with advanced image sensors, a 120-inch TV and an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered robotic dog, Aibo.

"It's really the reason why I joined Sony Music back in '84," Hirai said. "I wanted to be part of a business that really brings that wow through music at the time. And that's been my driving motivation ever since."

Hirai also discussed the music industry, Japanese corporate culture and household screen time with Fortt Knox. Listen to the full interview here:

Fortt Knox is a weekly podcast from CNBC anchor Jon Fortt. Previous episodes of the program can be found here.