Monk, DPJ backer, Inamori hopes to give JAL lift

Kyodo News

Kazuo Inamori, 77, who Wednesday accepted the government’s request to head Japan Airlines Corp., is known as a charismatic entrepreneur who founded what is now Kyocera Corp. and a telecom carrier that later merged with other firms to create KDDI Corp.

Inamori is also one of the few business leaders who supported the Democratic Party of Japan while it was in the opposition camp.

At 27 and a fresh engineering graduate of Kagoshima University, Inamori started the predecessor to Kyocera along with seven friends in 1959. He took the helm in 1966 and developed it into one of the country’s top high-tech firms via aggressive overseas expansion.

In 1984, Inamori helped found a planning firm for DDI Corp. to take advantage of telecom liberalization. In 2000, DDI merged with KDD Corp. and another firm to form what is now KDDI Corp.

Inamori, an ordained Buddhist monk, is known for his unique business administration philosophy, including his theory of “amoeba” management that emphasizes the active, self-reliant participation of each employee in running a small subunit of a business.

Close to DPJ Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa and former DPJ leader Seiji Maehara, Inamori welcomed the DPJ’s overwhelming Lower House poll win last summer as heralding great reform.