Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

JAL’s zen pilot

January 14, 2010

JAL/CEO The next boss of beleagured Japan Airlines is a 77-year-old ordained zen monk who founded multi-billion dollar tech and telecoms companies, and – unlike most Japanese corporate peers – actually backed the current ruling party.

Kazuo Inamori, honorary chairman of electronics parts maker Kyocera and critic of many modern CEOs as well as capitalism’s excesses (think an older Michael Moore at Kyoto’s Ginkakuji), says he will take the job for no salary, working only three to four days a week.

Long hours and zen resolve may be needed, though, as JAL shares slipped to 7 yen in value Wednesday, making its market capitalisation at about $200 million less than a single Boeing 747-8 aircraft.

Analysts say Inamori, who has launched a leadership school as well as his own foundation, may be the new government’s attempt to win a public buy-in that a principled outsider and his “Kyocera philosophy” of “doing good and doing well” can succeed where a slew of JAL managers have failed.

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