Business / Corporate

Seven & I shareholders approve Ryuichi Isaka as chief to lead growth

Bloomberg

Seven & I Holdings Co. will focus on revamping the world’s largest convenience store operator and boost value for shareholders, new President Ryuichi Isaka said after shareholders Thursday approved his appointment following weeks of boardroom drama.

Shareholders voted to approve the promotion for Isaka, who was backed by billionaire activist investor Dan Loeb, at the company’s annual meeting in Tokyo. Thirteen other executives’ appointments were also affirmed.

The appointment came after a rare public boardroom spat in which the board did not go along with Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Toshifumi Suzuki’s plan to oust Isaka, who had been running the company’s successful convenience stores unit.

The new president’s biggest tasks ahead include restructuring a money-losing supermarket unit and contending with intensified competition from rivals FamilyMart Co. and Lawson Inc.

“I want to play a big role to continue to address changes and pursue absolute value, which is the corporate philosophy of Chairman Suzuki,” Isaka said in remarks after the vote.

The 58-year-old plans to increase the number of 7-Eleven Inc. outlets in the U.S. to boost its market share amid slowing demand in Japan, he said in an interview last week.

Seven & I’s shares have tumbled about 15 percent this year.

“All we are expecting from Seven and I’s new management led by Isaka is a speed-up of restructuring of its unprofitable businesses,” said Dairo Murata, an analyst at JPMorgan Securities Japan Co. “They own a lot of problematic businesses. We’re hopeful but anxious at the same time.”

Suzuki, who officially resigned from his roles at Seven & I on Thursday, struck a conciliatory tone when he addressed the meeting after Isaka’s confirmation.

“I’d like shareholders to give further support to our company,” said the 83-year-old Suzuki.