On Nov. 30, Takeda Pharmaceutical Company shocked Japan Inc. by announcing that it plans to appoint Frenchman Christophe Weber as its next president by June 2014. Until then, Japanese companies with foreigners in the top spot had fallen into two categories: those that promote foreigners who have performed well in-house, and those owned by foreign capital or with a large foreign shareholder.

Head-hunting a foreigner from a competitor to head a major Japanese company is an absolute novelty. It is even more surprising as Takeda, founded in 1781, used to be a traditional family business with all company heads coming from the founding family until as recently as 2003.

So far, all in-house foreigners promoted to the top post have more or less failed. The list is short. It includes Howard Stringer (Sony), Michael C. Woodford (Olympus), Stuart Chambers and Craig Naylor (both Nippon Sheet Glass).