JR West president to step down

Masataka Ide, president of West Japan Railway Co., will step down April 1 and Vice President Shojiro Nanya will take his place, Transport Minister Makoto Koga announced Feb. 21.

The surprise announcement comes after JR West listed its shares on Japan’s stock markets last fall and before the JR group companies mark the 10th anniversary of their establishment in April. Ide will become the firm’s chairman on April 1.

The former state-owned Japanese National Railways, saddled with huge debts, was divided into seven JR group companies in April 1987. The seven firms have been in the process of privatization since then, but the government still holds a majority of their stock, and top-level personnel changes are subject to Cabinet approval.

Ide, 61, was one of the three mid-level executives who played a key role in the privatization process in 1987, becoming JR West president in June 1992. Nanya, 55, who joined JNR in 1964, has been vice president of JR West since June 1994.

One hour after the ministry announcement, Ide held his own news conference in Osaka and explained that he decided to quit because he had completed major tasks and felt this was the right time to leave. “This is the 10th anniversary year, and that is a good time (to resign),” he said. “At this private corporation that has a public nature, one person should not continue to hold power for too long.”