Norio Ohga (1930-2011)

Former Sony chief and creator of the CD dies    


Norio Ohga, the man responsible for developing the Compact Disc (CD) and president and chairman of Sony from 1982 to 1995, died last Saturday in Tokyo of multiple organ failure.

A classical music enthusiast, it was Ohga who determined that the CD should be 12cm in diameter, since that was a sufficient size to contain all of Beethoven’s Choral Ninth Symphony on a single disc.
Sony launched the CD in 1982. Five years later, the CD had overtaken the sales of LP records in Japan.
Ohga was originally recruited by Sony’s co-founders, Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita, in 1953 when he was a budding opera singer studying at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music: he had written to the company to complain about the quality of its tape recorders. Ibuka and Morita recognised in the bold young man someone with potential to improve the company’s expertise in sound and electrical engineering.
By the time Ohga was in his thirties he had become a company executive, an exceptionally rapid promotion for a Japanese company, and by the 1970s was president of CBS Sony Records (now Sony Music Entertainment).
In 1989 he oversaw the $3.4bn purchase of Hollywood studio Columbia Pictures, much criticised at the time as unwise and costly. Yet this laid the foundations for Sony’s success in both software and hardware in the world of music, films and video games.
Ohga also helped created the PlayStation video-game unit, which has also boosted the fortunes of Sony.
Although by around 2000 Ohga had stopped being involved in the day-to-day business of the company, he remained a senior adviser to the company up to the time of his death. He is survived by his wife, Midori.
Daniel Jaffé