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Yasuo Takei, 76; Japan’s Richest Man Quit in Scandal

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Japan’s richest man, Yasuo Takei, who was forced to retire as chairman of consumer credit company Takefuji Corp. amid a wiretapping scandal, has died, a company spokesman said Friday. He was 76.

Takei died of liver failure at his home in Tokyo on Thursday, Tokyo-based Takefuji said in a statement.

Takei was listed as Japan’s richest man, along with his family, in this year’s Forbes magazine listing of the world’s billionaires, with assets of $5.4 billion. The Takei family is 107th overall on the Forbes worldwide list. But Takei’s reputation was tarnished in 2004 by his conviction on charges of ordering the wiretapping of a journalist who had written articles criticizing his company.

Takei turned to illegal snooping after the critical articles triggered a decline in his company’s share price, making him suspect someone was working behind the scenes to discredit the company, the Tokyo District Court ruled.

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Takei, who stepped down as Takefuji chairman in 2003, was given a three-year suspended sentence, and his company, one of Japan’s biggest consumer loan corporations, was fined 1 million yen ($8,700).

A native of Fukaya, a city just outside Tokyo, Takei worked in his middle-class family’s liquor store and then sold vegetables as a street vendor.

With the profits from his vegetable stand, he began lending money to individuals in 1966. The company Takei founded, Fuji Shoji, was renamed Takefuji in 1974.

Under his leadership, Takefuji became the country’s consumer loan industry leader, and Takei became known for his autocratic management style and obsessive attention to the company’s public image. “I built this business because I had a vision,” Takei told an interviewer in 2001. “I lent to people who nobody else would lend to.”

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Among his survivors are his wife, Hiroko, and three children.


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