Business / Corporate

Askul CEO dismisses threat of ouster from top shareholder Yahoo Japan

JIJI

Shoichiro Iwata, president and chief executive officer of Japanese stationery seller Askul Corp., on Thursday dismissed pressure from top shareholder Yahoo Japan Corp. to oust him.

Yahoo’s opposition to his reappointment is “an act of tyranny by a controlling shareholder and ignores the interests of minority shareholders,” Iwata told a news conference in Tokyo.

Yahoo said Wednesday that it would vote against a proposal to reappoint Iwata at an Askul shareholders meeting set for Aug. 2.

Iwata said the proposal to reappoint himself and all other Askul board members is legitimate.

Askul and Yahoo formed a capital and business alliance in 2012 and launched online shopping site Lohaco in October that year.

But Lohaco remains unprofitable. In January this year, Yahoo proposed selling the business, Iwata said.

Iwata criticized Yahoo’s proposal, saying it was a “hijacking” of a business that is expected to grow.

Yahoo’s stance has changed since Kentaro Kawabe became president in June 2018, Iwata said. Kawabe is said to be calling for an end to the partnership.

Iwata is also under pressure from Plus Corp., another stationery firm and the second-largest shareholder of Askul, which on Wednesday expressed its opposition to his reappointment.

He noted that Askul has the right to buy back its own shares currently owned by Yahoo if there are breaches to the partnership contract.

Askul may exercise that right if Yahoo refuses to dissolve the partnership. In comments made after Iwata’s news conference, Yahoo said that talks with Askul to review the partnership were unnecessary.