It was a crisp day in November 2005 when hedge fund manager John Ho entered Electric Power Development Co.'s headquarters in Tokyo, betting Japan's corporate attitudes were ripe for change.

Ho, then director of Asia-Pacific investments at the Children's Investment Fund Management UK LLP, also known as TCI, was ushered into a conference room with a worn carpet to meet with Masayoshi Kitamura, then executive vice president of the utility. The visitor told Kitamura he wanted to learn more about the company's plans for growth.

His London-based fund was on the hunt for global infrastructure assets, and Japan's No. 1 electricity wholesaler, known to customers as J-Power, looked like an attractive investment. Ho had discussed with his boss, TCI founder Christopher Cooper-Hohn, how J-Power had the cash flow to double its dividends.