Japan's Nobuyuki Idei

Several years ago, all bets were off as far as Sony Corp. was concerned. The world's forerunner in consumer-electronics equipment appeared to be fading into the sunset, along with other heroes of Japan's vaunted "economic miracle." Sony had lost $3.2 billion in the Hollywood movie business, and sales of the Walkmans and Trinitrons that it relied on heavily were starting to slow. Then, along came Nobuyuki Idei, a marketing ace who had a vision: to revive Sony and turn it into Asia's first powerhouse in information-technology (IT) entertainment.

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