AKIO MORITA Biography - Pioneers, Explorers & inventors


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Akio Morita was born on January 26,                                                 
1921, in the city of Nagoya, to a family of sake brewers. The Morita family has     
been brewing sake for nearly 400 years in the city of Tokoname, near Nagoya.       
Under the strict eyes of his father, Kyuzaemon, Akio was groomed to become the     
heir to the family business. As a student, Akio often sat in on company meetings   
with his father and he would help with the family business even on school           
The Morita family had in those days already embraced the latest in Western         
culture, like the automobile and the electric phonograph. Whenever he was           
relieved from his household duties, the young Akio would become engrossed in       
taking apart the phonograph and putting it back together.                           
From an early age, Akio was fond of tinkering with electronic appliances, and       
mathematics and physics were his favorite subjects during his elementary and       
junior high school days. After graduating from High School Number Eight, he         
entered the Physics Department at Osaka Imperial University.                       
During that time, Japan was in midst of the Pacific War. In 1944, Akio, who had     
become a Navy lieutenant upon graduation from university that year, met the late   
Masaru Ibuka for the first time in the Navy's Wartime Research Committee.           
When he returned to the family home in Nagoya after the war, Morita was invited     
to join the faculty of the Tokyo Institute of Technology by one of its             
professors. Morita packed his belongings and prepared to leave for Tokyo, when     
an article about a research laboratory founded by Ibuka appeared in an Asahi       
newspaper column called, "Blue Pencil." With the end of the war, Ibuka had         
founded Tokyo Telecommunications Research Institute to embark on a new beginning.   
Upon reading this article, Morita visited Ibuka in Tokyo and they decided to       
establish a new company together.                                                   
On May 7, 1946, Ibuka and Morita founded Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo K.K. (Tokyo           
Telecommunications Engineering Corporation) with approximately 20 employees and     
initial capital of 190,000 yen. At that time, Ibuka was 38 years old and Morita     
was 25.                                                                             
Throughout their long partnership, Ibuka devoted his energies to technological     
research and product development, while Morita was instrumental in leading Sony     
in the areas of marketing, globalization, finance and human resources. Morita       
also spearheaded Sony's entry into the software business, and he contributed to     
the overall management of the company.                                             
The company's drive to expand its business globally is apparent in the decision     
to change its corporate name to Sony in 1958, a decision that was not well         
received either within or outside the company because Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo had       
already become widely known. To counter such views, Morita stressed it was         
necessary to change the name of the company to something that was easier to         
pronounce and remember, in order for the company to grow and increase its           
presence globally. In addition, Morita reasoned that the company could one day     
branch out into products other than electronics and the name Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo   
would no longer be appropriate. Therefore, he changed the name to Sony             
Corporation and decided to write 'Sony' in the katakana alphabet (a Japanese       
alphabet that is normally used to write foreign names), something that was         
unheard of at that time.                                                           
In 1960, Sony Corporation of America was established in the United States.         
Morita decided to move to the U.S. with his family and took the lead in creating   
new sales channels for the company. He believed that Sony should develop its own   
direct sales channels, rather than rely on local dealers.                           
Many products that have been launched throughout Sony's history can be credited     
to Morita's creativity and innovative ideas. His ideas gave birth to totally new   
lifestyles and cultures, and this is evident from such products as the Walkman     
and the video cassette recorder.                                                   
Morita also demonstrated his ability to break away from conventional thinking in   
the financial area, when Sony issued American Depositary Receipts in the U.S. in   
1961. It was the first time that a Japanese company had offered shares on the       
New York Stock Exchange, and this enabled the company to raise capital not just     
in Japan. Sony paved the way for Japanese companies to raise foreign capital, at   
a time when the common practice of Japanese management was to borrow funds from     
In the area of human resources, Morita wrote a book called Never Mind School       
Records in 1966 and stressed that school records are not important in carrying     
out a job. Morita's point of view, which he had first made known more than 30       
years ago, is today followed by many companies in Japan.                           
As changing the name Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo to Sony indicates, Morita was eager to     
diversify Sony's operations outside of the electronics business. In 1968, the       
company entered the music software business in Japan by establishing CBS/Sony       
Group Inc. jointly with CBS, Inc. of the U.S. Then in 1979, Sony entered the       
financial business in Japan with the founding of Sony Prudential Life Insurance     
Co. Ltd., a 50-50 joint venture with The Prudential Life Insurance Co. of           
America. Furthermore, Sony acquired CBS Records Inc., the records group of CBS     
in 1988. The following year, Sony acquired Columbia Pictures Entertainment, Inc.,   
enabling the company to become a comprehensive entertainment company that owns     
both quality software content and a wealth of hardware.                             
Besides managing Sony, Morita was active in building a cultural bridge between     
Japan and abroad as Vice Chairman of the Keidanren (Japan Federation of Economic   
Organizations) and as a member of the Japan-U.S. Economic Relations Group,         
better known as the "Wise Men's Group." He was instrumental in trying to ease       
trade frictions between Japan and the U.S., and through the publication of such     
literary works as Made in Japan, he became, "one of the most well-known Japanese   
in the U.S."                                                                       
Morita was the first Japanese to be awarded the Albert Medal from the United       
Kingdom's Royal Society of Arts in 1982. In 1984, he received the National Order   
of the Legion of Honor (Ordre National de la Légion d'Honneur), the highest and     
most prestigious French order, and in 1991, he was awarded the First Class Order   
of the Sacred Treasure from H. M. the Emperor of Japan. In addition, Morita         
received numerous awards from countries such as Austria, Belgium, Brazil,           
Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, and the United States, which shows the extent     
of his global recognition.                                                         
Morita emitted a natural radiance, and his personality, which he himself           
described as "cheerful," was loved by many. He had a wide circle of friends both   
in Japan and abroad, including individuals like Kiichi Miyazawa, former Prime       
Minister of Japan, Henry Kissinger, former U.S. Secretary of State, and             
orchestra conductors such as Zubin Mehta and the late Herbert von Karajan.         
Morita's boundless curiosity and challenging spirit extended to his private life;   
he started skiing, tennis, and scuba diving when he was past 50 years old.