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Former Sogo chief Hiroo Mizushima dies at 102

JIJI

Hiroo Mizushima, the former chairman of failed department store chain Sogo Co., has died of heart failure at a Tokyo hospital at the age of 102, it was learned Thursday.

Mizushima, who was at the helm of Sogo for nearly 40 years, passed away on July 28. His funeral was held by close relatives.

Born in Maizuru, Kyoto Prefecture, Mizushima went on to land a job at the Industrial Bank of Japan, a predecessor of Mizuho Bank, in 1936 and later became vice president in 1958.

He was known for his original tactic of funding new stores by buying up plots of land and then using their value — which was expected to rise — as collateral to obtain loans.

After becoming president of Sogo in 1962, Mizushima accelerated new store openings to expand the chain, but sales plummeted in the early 1990s after the asset-inflated bubble economy imploded, kicking off Japan’s prolonged economic malaise.

Mizushima retired in 1994 and become chairman.

In April 2000, Sogo asked financial institutions to forgive debts worth ¥639 billion, and Mizushima resigned as chairman to take responsibility.

Sogo filed for bankruptcy protection under the civil rehabilitation law in July 2000 with debts of some ¥1.87 trillion.

Mizushima withdrew his bank deposits right after the filing in an attempt to avoid seizure and was arrested in May 2001. He received a suspended prison sentence that was finalized by the Supreme Court in 2006.

Sogo is now run by Sogo & Seibu Co. as part of the Seven & I Holdings Co. group.

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