Keizo Saji, the chairman of Suntory Ltd., died of pneumonia Wednesday morning at a hospital in Suita, Osaka Prefecture. He was 80.

The Osaka Prefecture native, a charismatic figure in Kansai business, was the second son of Shinjiro Torii, who founded Kotobukiya, the predecessor of Suntory.

After graduating from the science department of Osaka University, he joined Kotobukiya in 1961 and would serve as president of the nation’s top whiskey producer for nearly 30 years.

In 1963 Saji overcame several problems in successfully re-entering a sector his father could never conquer — the beer market. Saji paved the way for draft beer with Jun Nama, the first bottled version, in 1967.

Saji , who also headed the Osaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was also known in Suntory as a frank and straight-speaking leader whose candid remarks often made him a lightning bolt for criticism.

He was also devoted to cultural projects, including museums and concert halls in Tokyo that bear the Suntory name.

His wide circle of friends included Economic Planning Agency head and writer Taichi Sakaiya and sumo yokozuna Wakanohana.

A funeral service will be held for relatives at a temple in Osaka on Friday, while a company-organized funeral is will be held at a later date.

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