(CNN) -- Sir Howard Stringer will step down as Sony CEO and president on April 1, the Japanese electronics giant announced Wednesday.
In a widely expected move, Sony has appointed Kazuo Hirai, currently executive deputy president, to replace Stringer as president and CEO, a company statement said. Stringer is expected to become chairman of the company's board of directors in June, when current chairman Yotaro Kobayashi retires.
Stringer, the Welsh-born former journalist and past president of CBS Television Network in the U.S., was named Sony CEO in 2005, becoming one of only a handful of foreign chief executives of a listed Japanese multinational company.
In a statement, Stringer said the decision was the result of succession plans that began three years ago. Stringer said Hirai has "distinguished himself through his work in the PlayStation and networked entertainment businesses.
"Kaz is a globally focused executive for whom technology and the cloud are familiar territory, content is highly valued, and digital transformation is second nature," Stringer said. "I believe his tough-mindedness and leadership skills will be of great benefit to the company and its customers in the months and years ahead."
Sony has faced an uphill battle in recent years. Its stock value fell 54% in 2011, hurt by a strong yen that dropped profits brought back home, as well as the twin crises of the March 2011 earthquake and the November floods in Thailand, which hit the company's supply chain. The hacking of Sony's PlayStation network last year, compromising privacy data of millions of subscribers, added to the company's woes.
"As challenging as times are for Sony now, were it not for the strong leadership of Sir Howard Stringer these past seven years, we would have been in a much more difficult position," Hirai said in a statement. "The path we must take is clear: to drive the growth of our core electronics businesses - primarily digital imaging, smart mobile and game; to turn around the television business; and to accelerate the innovation that enables us to create new business domains."