Toshiba follows Sony and Hitachi in reshuffling top management

Toshiba Corp today said that it would name Norio Saskai as new company president in June, becoming the latest Japanese electronics conglomerate to reshuffle top management betting that a change will help reverse its flagging fortunes.

Toshiba is promoting Norio Sasaki, 59, corporate senior executive vice president, to president in late June, replacing Atsutoshi Nishida, 65. Nishida will become chairman without the right to represent the company, while Chairman Tadashi Okamura, 70, will become adviser, the electronics and electrical equipment manufacturer said.

Sasaki, who joined Toshiba in 1972 after graduating from Waseda University, has long been in charge of the nuclear power plant division. He was named vice president for the nuclear and energy systems and services division in April 2003 before becoming corporate senior executive vice president in June 2008. The top management change will be officially approved at a board meeting after endorsement at a regular shareholders meeting slated for late June.

The management reshuffle is being interpreted as indicating that Nishida is taking the blame for Toshiba's record group operating loss of 280 billion yen estimated for the year to this month, industry analysts said. ''As president, I feel responsible for this earnings deterioration amid a great economic crisis,'' Nishida told a news conference. ''But this has nothing to do with the replacement of the president.''

Toshiba, which owns US nuclear plant maker Westinghouse, has been hit by heavy losses in its core semiconductor business, although its power systems sales have been less severely affected by the economic downturn. In response, Toshiba announced a business improvement plan in January that includes the cutting of 4,500 contract workers mainly for the semiconductor division.

The group is not the only Japanese high-tech giant changing its president during the economic crisis. Earlier this week, Hitachi Ltd. reshaped its senior management to bring in a more seasoned team of veterans as it seeks ways to cope with the nearly $8 billion net loss it forecast for this fiscal year ending in March. That would be the biggest net loss ever by a Japanese manufacturing company.

Sony Corp., on the other hand, brought in a younger generation of top managers in a bid to freshen up its key businesses as it implements a global restructuring program that will see it cut 16,000 jobs, half of them full-time.(See: Sony's CEO Stringer ousts president Chubachi / Sony braces up for recession; cuts jobs, closes factories)

Moving away from electronics, auto giants Toyota and Honda have also announced changes at the top (See: Honda names new president and CEO, struggles to find buyer for F1 racing team / Founder's grandson Akio Toyoda to head Toyota)