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The surprise takeover bid for Toshiba Corp. is a palpable demonstration of the growing influence in corporate Japan of activist investors, who have gone from largely impotent onlookers to kingmakers in the space of just a few years.

The offer from CVC Capital Partners, while still in the early stages, comes just weeks after Toshiba Chief Executive Officer Nobuaki Kurumatani lost a landmark shareholder vote, forcing an independent investigation into alleged issues with voting at its annual general meeting last year.

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