Army of Carlos Ghosns may be in the making

by Tomoko Otake

We all know the Carlos Ghosn story.

The tireless president of Nissan Motor Co., imported from French parent Renault SA, put the troubled automaker back in the black — by letting thousands of workers go, closing down assembly lines and severing ties with longtime suppliers.

Now, what if there were more Ghosns around? Could they help the armies of debt-ridden firms avert failure and emerge profitable?

Consultants and lawyers involved in “turnaround” work — as it is popularly called in the U.S. — are about to launch two nonprofit groups in an attempt to realize just that.

The Japan Association of Turnaround Professionals will be set up April 24, with Hideki Matsushima, a high-profile bankruptcy lawyer, as its executive director. The group hopes to create a supportive network of turnaround professionals and business opportunities for them.

Another nonprofit group, the Education Center for Restructuring Advisers, will start up in May and aim at nurturing young talent.

Lawyer Shinjiro Takagi and Tomoo Tasaku of Pricewaterhouse Coopers Financial Advisory Services, both of whom will serve on a panel within the Industrial Revitalization Corp., are among some 70 supporters of the concept.

While more than 1,000 people are involved in some kind of turnaround work in Japan, it’s not enough, said Takagi, a former Tokyo High Court judge and a leading corporate rehabilitation expert.

“We need thousands of pros,” Takagi told The Japan Times. “Not all of the 1,000-plus currently in practice are skilled, either.”

The first of the new groups is modeled on the Turnaround Management Association, a Chicago-based nonprofit group with 5,800 members. The TMA keeps its members updated on the latest industry trends via its Web site and conferences, and issues a directory covering members’ names, contacts and area of specialty.

The directory is easily available to business owners in need of third-party advice on improving their management, be it financially, operationally or strategically.

The fledgling Japanese group will likewise organize symposiums, compile a directory and match turnaround professionals with needy corporations, said Hiroaki Okahashi, an official of the economic and industrial policy bureau at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

The ministry has pledged 800 million yen to support a range of private-sector initiatives to cultivate turnaround experts and help the industry grow.

Another initiative it is backing is aimed at drafting educational materials for use in colleges and elsewhere.

The Education Center for Restructuring Advisers, also supported by Takagi and Tasaku, will offer pilot courses for would-be turnaround specialists in such fields as banking, law, accounting and finance, Okahashi said.