In This Review

Sony: The Private Life
Sony: The Private Life
By John Nathan
Houghton Mifflin, 1999, 333 pp

An independent biography of the best-known corporation in the world, based on 115 interviews with all the living key players and much of the supporting cast. From its 1946 founding by Masaru Ibuka in the ruins of Tokyo to a company with global sales of $50 billion, Sony's rise is an engrossing tale. It was founded explicitly as a firm where dedicated engineers could realize their craft at the highest possible level, and it progressed from radio repairs through tape recorders and televisions to VCRs, compact disks, and camcorders. The book is a good read for those interested in the motivation, corporate vision, and decision-making processes of three key leaders of Sony -- a corporation that is at core Japanese with a strong American component. American and Japanese personal and business cultures can often clash, but within Sony they created a productive tension. Nathan offers little quantitative analysis; there are no balance sheets, operating statements, or indeed any tables at all in the book. Such figures are mentioned only in passing, as a byproduct of human interactions.