Nishimuro tapped to take over Japan Post

Move shows LDP coalition's bid for influence

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

The government has asked former Toshiba Corp. Chairman Taizo Nishimuro to take over as president and CEO of Japan Post Holdings Co., which controls the giant government-owned Japan Post conglomerate, government officials said Friday.

The expected appointment of Nishimuro to replace Atsuo Saka, 66, a former senior Finance Ministry bureaucrat who only took the post in December, is seen as an attempt by the Liberal Democratic Party-led administration to regain its influence over the Japan Post group and bureaucrats.

Postal and internal affairs minister Yoshitaka Shindo said the administration has already asked Nishimuro, 77, to take the post.

Later in the day, a Japan Post spokesman confirmed that Saka will retire after the next shareholders’ meeting, scheduled in June, as requested by Shindo.

Japan Post was set up as a joint stock company in 2006 as part of the government’s effort to privatize the monster service. The government, however, still holds 100 percent of the firm.

Yoshihide Suga, now chief Cabinet secretary, expressed anger when Saka, then serving as executive vice president of Japan Post, was promoted to president and CEO on Dec. 20 amid the power vacuum that existed during the transition period following the Dec. 16 Lower House election.

Suga complained repeatedly that the promotion was an attempt by Finance Ministry officials to keep the post reserved for retired top ministry officials.

“My belief has not changed . . . even now. We should not overlook the personnel appointment that was carried out without consulting us,” Suga told a news conference Friday. “That’s my thought and that of the LDP.”

Saka succeeded Jiro Saito, a former vice finance minister who had maintained a long and close relationship with Ichiro Ozawa, the political heavyweight who now leads the minor party Seikatsu no To (People’s Life Party).

Saito was appointed in 2009 as Japan Post president while the Democratic Party of Japan was in power. At that time, Ozawa was the DPJ’s secretary general.

A senior administration official said the LDP is firmly determined to oust Saka.

“We are chosen by voters and are in charge of the government. Bureaucrats should not rotate posts among themselves” during a government transition period, the official said.

Nishimuro, who was president of Toshiba from 1996 to 2000 and then chairman until 2005, currently serves as chairman of a government council to oversee the privatization process of the Japan Post group, which is now trying to get listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in fall 2015.

Nishimura has also served as president and chairman of Tokyo Stock Exchange Inc.