Howard Stringer began work Wednesday as the first foreign chief executive of Sony Corp. and said his first priority will be giving focus to the floundering Japanese electronics giant.

Sony shareholders approved the appointment of the Wales-born Stringer, 63, and that of Ryoji Chubachi, 57, as president.

Stringer succeeds Nobuyuki Idei, who ran Sony for 10 years. With company earnings continuing to slump, Idei announced in March that he would step down, as did many on Sony's board of directors.

Attention now turns to how Stringer and his managers will fix the troubles at the company's famed electronics division, which in recent years has been plagued by plummeting profit, uninspired products and flagging morale.

So far, Stringer has said only that he will announce a turnaround plan in late September. But Wednesday, while answering questions from shareholders, he said his chief concern would be how to streamline staff and reduce the number of products Sony makes without damaging morale further.

"I know I cannot use an ax in Japan, but we need to change," Stringer said. "The world has changed and we have so many competitors and we cannot fight battles on every front."

Sony announced a revised management lineup that reduces the number of top corporate executives and reshapes the company's top-heavy executive structure so that there are fewer senior officers.

Stringer and Chubachi also said Sony would have to pay more attention to customers' wishes than it has in the past, and work to bring together the group's often-feuding divisions.