The veteran boss of retail group Seven & i Holdings Co Ltd (3382.T), who pioneered 24-hour convenience stores in Japan four decades ago, said on Thursday that he is stepping down to take responsibility for a failed management reshuffle.
The patriarch’s sudden departure without a named successor creates a power vacuum at the sprawling conglomerate, with its 50,000 employees and $90 billion in sales, just as it revamps struggling supermarkets and department stores.
The boardroom surprise at one of the country’s biggest firms also signals a change in atmosphere in Japanese corporate governance, where management traditionally enjoyed support by big shareholders and board members.
The 83-year-old Chief Executive and Chairman Toshifumi Suzuki said he decided to quit after a board meeting in which he failed to garner enough votes to replace the president of group convenience store chain, Seven-Eleven Japan.
“It is my lack of virtue and I am unbearably ashamed,” Suzuki told a news conference, without elaborating on the timing of his resignation.
“I was supposed to attend an analyst meeting tomorrow. But I cannot go there and explain this year’s prospects anymore after I decided to quite.”
Suzuki is a legendary figure in Japan’s retail industry. He brought the 7-Eleven franchise to the country in the 1970s and later took over its U.S. parent.
In past weeks, Suzuki’s company has been the target of activist investor Daniel Loeb, who wrote an open letter voicing concerns over rumors Suzuki planned to appoint his son as successor. Read more