When it comes to crunching numbers or winding down bad businesses, nobody at Sony Corp. has been as sharp as Kenichiro Yoshida. Now, as chief executive officer, he faces a tougher task: rekindling some lost magic. The driving force behind Sony\u2019s turnaround during the last five years when he was in charge of finance, the reserved 58-year-old took the company\u2019s top job yesterday. Investors love him, but managers who worked with him said they worry he isn\u2019t in love with the kind of gadgets that once made Sony a household name. Sony is making record profits again, but it\u2019s no longer making the world\u2019s coolest stuff. The company that gave us the Walkman and the Trinitron color TV has become a less-inspiring hodgepodge that includes an insurance provider and a semiconductor maker, along with Playstation game consoles and movies. Once ranked the No.1 brand by American consumers, Sony and it\u2019s incoming CEO need new hits to keep from falling further behind Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. \u201cYoshida is essentially tasked with taking an older company and trying to make it young again," said Damian Thong, a Tokyo-based analyst at Macquarie Group Ltd. \u201cThere\u2019s a tension between his desire to maintain steady profits and taking the risks necessary to drive innovation. Balancing those two will be a challenge.\u201d It\u2019s rare that CFOs are chosen to lead businesses that aren\u2019t in the middle of major restructuring, according to Stephen Kaplan, a professor at Chicago University\u2019s business school. Finance chiefs, he said, are usually less adept at building companies than digging them out of holes. Still, a Bloomberg analysis of share price data suggests that CFOs-turned-CEO tend to perform well. In the 28 instances since the mid-1990s when large non-financial corporations promoted their finance chiefs to the top job, the stocks on average did twice as well as the broader market during their tenure. In 2013, when former chief executive officer Kazuo Hirai made Yoshida his CFO and closest lieutenant, Sony was definitely in a deep hole. Losses had totaled more the $6 billion over the previous five years. Vowing there would be no \u201csacred cows,\u2019\u2019 Yoshida shed or trimmed one bloated business after another: first laptops, then TVs and smartphones. Humility and quiet seriousness\u2014traits especially prized in Japan\u2014helped Yoshida win support even as he cut 20,000 jobs, according to several Sony managers, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Less showy than Hirai, Yoshida wasn\u2019t afraid to ask questions or admit he didn\u2019t understand something, and he knew the numbers inside out, they said. Five years on, the results are hard to argue with. Sony is making more money than ever, the stock price has more than tripled and there\u2019s $12 billion in cash on the balance sheet\u2014a war chest that gives Sony plenty of room to maneuver, and may also test Yoshida\u2019s vision. \u201cThe board is making a bet he\u2019ll be able to shift from being an enforcer to an all-around strategist,\u2019\u2019 said Elena L. Botelho, partner at consulting firm ghSMART and co-author of \u201cThe CEO Next Door,\u2019\u2019 a 2018 book on leadership. "Just because someone delivered a remarkable turnaround from the cost perspective doesn\u2019t mean they can be a leader for the overall business and grow it.\u2019\u2019 In reporting this story, Bloomberg spoke with more than a half-dozen current and former mid-level managers familiar with Yoshida\u2019s career. They declined to comment on the record because of the sensitivity of the issues. Sony chose not to make Yoshida available for an interview. There were no home runs for Yoshida during the eight years he ran a small subsidiary called So-Net, which Sony hoped would one day grow into a giant internet service provider like AOL. A Sony lifer who started at the company\u2019s stock brokerage after getting an economics degree, Yoshida didn\u2019t have a deep understanding of the web or its technology, according to a person who worked closely with him then. After taking the unit public in 2005, Yoshida watched as the shares lost half their value in nine months. Focused on the company\u2019s finances, Yoshida relied on his managers for ideas, the person said. By the time he was recruited as Hirai\u2019s right-hand man, So-Net\u2019s stock was back where it started, but the business model had become largely irrelevant\u2014and Yoshida was unable to navigate the changes. Now, as CEO of a $61 billion conglomerate with eight divisions and thousands of products, the canvas is much larger and the stakes are exponentially higher. Among the challenges: Yoshida will have to figure out how much investment is needed to keep Sony\u2019s lead in image sensors. In the music business, where an important contract is expiring in June, Yoshida will have to make a quick decision on whether to pay an estimated $2 billion for full ownership of an aging but still profitable song catalog, or let it go. Then there\u2019s the movie business, Columbia Pictures, where a string of flops and a constant churn of top executives has kept the studio far behind Walt Disney Co. Harder still will be plotting a strategy for what to do after Playstation 5. The machine, expected to be released next year, will probably be the last standalone game console Sony ever makes, so Yoshida will eventually have to take a risk on something new. Perhaps even further outside of Yoshida\u2019s comfort zone will be trying to solve a problem that has troubled Sony\u2019s top brass for years: getting the creative juices flowing again at a company where the best hits have been the result of serendipity, not calculation. The Walkman, for example, was invented over four days in response to a personal request from co-founder Masaru Ibuka, who wanted a portable player so he could listen to music on long flights. A more recent whimsy that paid off was \u201cFate\/Grand Order,\u2019\u2019 a smartphone game which has made about $1 billion in the last three years, according to Masahiko Ishino, an analyst at Tokai Tokyo Securities. That idea was dreamed up by an employee in the music business\u2014who\u2019d played a lot of games but had never made one. \u201cThey made it in a real rough-and-tumble way-quintessential Sony,\u2019\u2019 Ishino said. At a February press conference at the company\u2019s Tokyo headquarters, Yoshida cracked a rare smile when he admitted to being surprised by the news of his promotion late last year. Asked to name a new Sony product that got him excited, he made an uncharacteristic confession: \u201cMy favorite right now is aibo,\u2019\u2019 he said, referring to a toy robot dog that amounts to a rounding error in terms of Sony\u2019s sales. Once discontinued as a money-losing extravagance, aibo was relaunched in January to showcase Sony\u2019s technology, even if the numbers will probably never add up. Yoshida\u2019s endorsement\u2014heartfelt or not-suggested he might just yet grow into his new role as Sony\u2019s top salesman.