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Isao Nakauchi, 83; Brought U.S. Retail Methods to Japan

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Isao Nakauchi, 83, who founded supermarket chain Daiei and revolutionized Japan’s retail industry, died of a stroke Monday at a hospital in Kobe, Japan, according to officials at a university where he worked.

The Kobe-based Daiei Inc. was founded in 1957 by Nakauchi, a charismatic businessman who was praised for bringing U.S. large-scale discount retail methods to a nation long dominated by mom-and-pop stores.

Daiei grew to become the biggest Japanese retailer during the 1970s. But as imitators sprang up, Daiei has struggled under the burden of huge debts amassed during years of overexpansion in the 1980s.

It was taken over by a government-backed rehabilitation organization earlier this year.

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Nakauchi stepped down from the board of directors in 2002, and the enormous influence over Japanese economic policy that he held decades ago vanished as Daiei fell from grace.

Before the arrival of Daiei, methods taken for granted in the United States -- such as selling cases of soda at cheaper prices -- were unknown. But in recent years, Daiei became a symbol of a protected mammoth company, receiving massive bailouts from the government to stay afloat.


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