Howard Stringer, Sony's chief executive, left Tokyo a week ago Thursday in a wheelchair. A slipped disk in his back required emergency surgery, and he was flying home to New York for the procedure. But he was calm — the electronics and media giant would run just fine on autopilot for a day or two.
As his jet landed the next day in the United States, he received a telephone call. Sony was not fine. Japan, where the company employs about 60,000 people, had suffered a deadly one-two punch, the biggest earthquake in memory and a tsunami to match.