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Friday, Dec 9, 2022

Mitsubishi Electric US Taps Corbo as CEO

Mike Corbo has been working his way up the corporate ladder at Mitsubishi Electric’s U.S. unit since joining the firm in 1986.  

In 2018, he reached the level of chief operating officer. Last month, he was promoted again, becoming the first ever non-Japanese chief executive at Cypress-based Mitsubishi Electric US, which dates to 1973 and is one of several domestic units of Tokyo-based conglomerate Mitsubishi Electric Corp. (TOKYO: 6503).

“Timing is everything,” Corbo joked during an interview with the Business Journal, noting that since 2018 he’d seen Mitsubishi’s other U.S. units promote local executives to the top roles.

“This one has taken longer because of some complexities involved.”

He’s now the top executive at a company division that employs 2,960, including 255 in Orange County, and generated about $1.6 billion in sales in 2020.

Mitsubishi Electric US markets, distributes, installs and maintains the company’s cooling and heating products, elevators and escalators, large LCD digital signage monitors, industrial printers and semiconductor devices, among other products.

Prior CEO Masahiro “Max” Oya has been named to a newly created role as chairperson of the company, overseeing the company’s holdings throughout the Americas, and remains the chief representative to the Americas Region for the parent company.

Corbo will oversee the company’s Americas Corporate Office, which provides strategic and operational services to other Mitsubishi Electric group companies in North America, including factories in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Kentucky. In his new role, he assumes control of human resources, the legal department, corporate communications and other areas, including its innovation center.

“My mandate is not a major restructuring,” he said of the new role. “We are open-minded to joint ventures or acquisitions.”

He noted other successful collaborations the company’s made of late, including the Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC US, a joint venture begun in 2018 with Ingersoll-Rand PLC.

In terms of acquisitions, in 2019, Mitsubishi Electric took over Iconics Inc., a software company focused on analytics and Internet of Things products.

“In spite of [the pandemic], we grew sales 5%. The big driver was HVACs. The market is looking for products that can reduce carbon,” Corbo said.  

The company also produces semiconductors, a space that has had worldwide shortages because of a lack of silicon wafers.

“We’re affected just like everybody else,” he said. “We do our very best to meet the demand. We continue to find growth in that business, as well with boom in data centers.”

He’s also overseeing a relatively new unit, Space & Sensing Systems.

“It’s a long-term play,” Corbo said. “Orange County is a very good place for that operation to be. It feeds well into our other businesses like autonomous driving.”

 Two years ago, Corbo told the Business Journal that his unit’s goal was to double sales to $2.5 billion by 2025.

“We’re ahead of pace,” he said late last month. “The new target is $2.7 billion. We have three drivers:  HVACs, elevators and escalators and semiconductors.”

With his unit working in so many different industries, Corbo knows well U.S. building trends, product innovations and future outlooks. As the coronavirus ebbs, he’s seeing the economy start to reopen.

“The U.S. is moving favorably with regards to COVID,” he said. “The trends are all positive.

“We’re bullish on the economy. When COVID came, we all anticipated a dramatic downturn, which was short lived. The rebound came back quickly.”

One area that could be slow is commercial development, where there has been a tendency of “wait and see,” he said. Meanwhile, residential housing “hasn’t slowed at all.”

He’s not worried about employees returning to work fearing tall buildings, pointing out his unit has received orders for three building topping 40 floors, including one in the Bay Area and two in Nashville, Tenn. He noted Mitsubishi has introduced elevators with touchless technology and building operators can also adjust the elevator load to reduce capacity from 15 to four people if needed.

The Style 

Corbo, who doesn’t speak Japanese, said all the executives he works with speak English. He’s had the opportunity to learn the different work styles of the two nations.

“The U.S. side is very entrepreneurial oriented. The Japanese side is extremely detailed, extremely precise. Both have their pros and cons. The ideal is the system right in the middle.”

Automaker and sister company Mitsubishi Motors North America Inc. last year left its Cypress headquarters for Tennessee. Corbo said Mitsubishi Electric US plans to stay.

“We’re very much committed to Orange County,” said the Mission Viejo resident. “We have no plans to move.”

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Peter J. Brennan
Peter J. Brennan
Peter J. Brennan has been a journalist for 40 years. He spent a decade in Latin America covering wars, narcotic traffickers, earthquakes, and business. His resume includes 15 years at Bloomberg News where his headlines and articles sometimes moved the market caps of companies he covered by hundreds of millions of dollars. His articles have been published worldwide, including the New York Times and the Washington Post; he's appeared on CNN, CBC, BBC, and Bloomberg TV. He was awarded a Kiplinger Fellowship at The Ohio State University.

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