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Fujitsu: succession planning the Japanese way

Nozoe Kuniaki, ousted CEO of Tokyo Stock Exchange’s 40th largest company, Fujitsu, this week issued a Court petition in an attempt to clear his name following unfounded accusations of links to organised crime.

At a news conference this week, Nozoe threatened to sue two Fujitsu executives over his departure, which he claims was linked to his attempts to sell Internet service subsidiary Nifty Corp. Nozoe told the news conference that his goal in taking action against his former employer was to restore his honour and that he was not seeking a return to the Company. However, his petition, filed to a Yokohama district court on March 15 was withdrawn on April 6 before a final ruling could be made.

In September 2009 Fujitsu announced that Nozoe would leave the board “for health reasons”. By March 2010 press stories began circulating about the real reason for his sudden exit – that former company president Akikusa Naoyuki had blackmailed him into leaving on the pretext of Nozoe’s links to to a company with “an unfavourable reputation”, a veiled reference to the yakuza.

Fujitsu has now announced that it will hold a press conference next week to explain why it had misled the market over the reasons for Nozoe’s departure. The company’s handling of the ousting earned it a verbal warning from the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

The story makes for interesting reading and raises questions about why Akikusa, famous for destroying 91% of shareholder value during his five year tenure at the top of Fujitsu and blaming it on his employees who “don’t work hard enough”, was able to pull off a one-man coup.

Shareholders have been left in the dark and the share price has suffered not just from a lack of PR clarity but failings of basic good governance. Nozoe’s lawyers argue that the episode cost Fujitsu 5bn yen (£34.9m, $53.1m).

It’s worth reading the following English language blog item from Japan which gives a detailed insight into the situation.

Links

Japanese Corporate Governance Watch >>

What do you think?