Hesse, whose full title at Sony is president of global digital business, US sales and corporate strategy, will join Bertelsmann on February 1 2012, where he will sit on its executive board.
Hesse will be tasked with building new business opportunities and facilitating the "digital transformation" of the core Bertelsmann business.
He will also be responsible for Bertelsmann's stake in BMG Rights, a joint venture with private equity firm KKR.
The move will bring Hesse back into the Bertelsmann fold: he came to Sony from Bertelsmann as a result of the 2004 merger between BMG and Sony Music. Bertlesmann then sold its stake in Sony BMG to Sony in 2008.
Thomas Rabe, designated chairman and CEO of Bertelsmann AG, said, "Thomas Hesse knows Bertelsmann very well from his earlier work and is well acquainted with the international media world.
"He brings to his new position a high level of expertise and a profound understanding of the digital challenges a global media company faces."
Sony has yet to say who will replace Hesse.