Recruit founder, ’80s bribe-giver Ezoe dies at age 76

Kyodo

Hiromasa Ezoe, founder of Recruit Co., the classified advertising conglomerate at the center of a major shares for political favors scandal in the 1980s, died of pneumonia Friday afternoon at a Tokyo hospital. He was 76.

In 2003, Ezoe was given a suspended three-year prison term for bribery after offering shares in a Recruit subsidiary that was going public to politicians, government officials and corporate leaders, in exchange for favors that would help the business expand. He had pleaded not guilty.

He was arrested in 1989, the year after the scandal broke, and the ensuing investigation by prosecutors led to the resignation of the entire Cabinet of then-Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita.

Takeshita and others who received shares of the subsidiary, Recruit Cosmos Co., profited by selling them after it went public. The scandal became a high-profile example of the cozy relationships traditionally shared by the nation’s politicians, bureaucrats and corporate executives.

Ezoe, a University of Tokyo graduate, founded an advertising company in 1960 that published a job information magazine for students before rapidly expanding to magazines that listed information on housing, travel and other fields. It was renamed Recruit in 1984 and reorganized as Recruit Holdings Co. last year.

“Mr. Ezoe formed the basis of our company’s development. May his soul rest in peace,” Recruit said in statement released Saturday morning.