Resigning for “health reasons” is often a Japanese corporate euphemism for the executive suddenly discovering a sword to fall on. Certainly Suekawa, soon to be ex President of Shiseido, Japan’s best known cosmetics and toiletries brand, at 53, seems rather young to have lost his health so dramatically, but you never know, maybe a stay in hospital is really beckoning, unlike the case of Fujitsu’s former President Nozoe. Suekawa was only two years into the job, and although Shiseido has been flatlining in terms of growth, it was hardly in the critical ward, although there have been recent downgrades of its forecasts.
The Nikkei is critical of Shiseido’s decision, calling the resignation a “powdering over” (see what they did there?) of accountability and is unimpressed by Maeda, the former President, who appointed Suekawa, coming back as President again. “An organization needs self-discipline to maintain the strength of its brand. With Shiseido simply reverting to its old president without clarifying the responsibility for its sluggish growth, the company’s future remains uncertain.”
Suekawa was behind the acquisition of US company Bare Escentuals, while Maeda was President – it seems this investment has still not borne many fruit, and Shiseido’s big foray into China has also been hit by the recent anti-Japanese sentiment there.
I’m a huge fan of Shiseido’s cosmetics and skincare range, but am frequently frustrated by the high prices and limited distribution in Europe, in contrast to Japan where they are a mainstream brand, and had been perfectly willing to develop lower priced ranges for China.
Update (28th March) – a more detailed article on this has appeared in the English language Nikkei Weekly ($) Seems like the “advisers’ society” of top executives were not sufficiently “socialised” to accept Suekawa’s appointment as President by Maeda. Which answers the question I am often asked – how powerful are the “retired” executives who take up advisor roles – they can be extremely influential even if not overtly in positions of power. Sounds like they have told Maeda to take the reins in sorting out the mess they think he created.
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