SONY by John Nathan


The Private Life
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A corporate biography that explores the complex, talented people who made a major company successful. Sony has a unique place in American culture, a brand name that is instantly recognizable and inexorably tied to the modern age of consumer electronics. Here readers may discover its modest beginnings in the ravaged industrial landscape of postwar Japan. Two major forces combined to make this happen: Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita, singular personalities in a culture not known for individuality. They developed a powerful bond of friendship and a working relationship that survived disagreements and difficulties; later, other equally significant leaders emerged to help shape and propel the company. Nathan (Mishima: A Biography, not reviewed), an expert on modern Japanese culture (UC, Santa Barbara), not only recognizes and delicately profiles the human power behind Sony, he creates a masterful portrait of individuals working together—and occasionally at odds—to generate new products and businesses, including a few clunkers. Nathan also credits Sony for its pioneering work bridging the geographical and cultural gaps—defining consumers as well as businesses—between its home country and the US. Morita, more so than anyone, achieved this goal with the force of personality and perseverance. As the author suggests, critical differences between Japanese and American business cultures may never be fully erased, but readers will find here a sensitive exploration of what lies underneath the Sony corporate surface, particularly the force of loyalty and personal bonds. Also engaging are the adventures of some American executives who fell under the spell and employment of Sony after they were brought on board to impart American-style business practices. The author, who had the full cooperation of the company during his research, acknowledges that he sometimes got more than he expected in the candid disclosures of present and former employees. Insightful, probing, and extremely well-written; in the genre of business and company profiles, this is as good as it gets. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 28th, 1999
ISBN: 0-395-89327-5
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1999


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