Yoichi Morishita, unlikely leader of Matsushita empire, dies at 82
Consensus seeker led what is today Panasonic through troubled times
TAKUMI ANZAI, Nikkei Hiroshima Bureau Chief
HIROSHIMA -- Yoichi Morishita, who steered the company that became Panasonic through a turbulent period in Japan's post-bubble era, died Sunday at the age of 82.
The management of Matsushita Electric Industrial, as the consumer electronics maker was known then, was in disarray when Morishita took charge as president in 1993.
The industry had lurched into recession in Japan. Under pressure from the chairman -- who happened to be the founder's son-in-law -- the previous president had resigned over a series of failures, including a staggering loss at subsidiary National Lease. The job fell to Morishita.
Morishita began the process of mending the company's tattered finances and bringing order to its scattered business interests. Among other steps, he sold the bulk of its stake in U.S. film studio MCA, which Matsushita Electric had bought in 1990 for a whopping $6.1 billion.
In 1996, he promoted the founder's grandson to vice president, stirring rumors of a coming restoration of Matsushita family rule. But after a former president openly questioned the grandson's qualification to lead, Morishita settled instead on Kunio Nakamura, who became president in 2000. Morishita went on to become chairman.
Morishita himself had never been mentored by founder Konosuke Matsushita, regarded as "the god of management" in Japan during his lifetime and still studied today. That set Morishita apart from his predecessors. Hungering for knowledge of the industrialist's leadership, he would sometimes spend entire days binge-watching footage of Matsushita.
Born in 1934, Morishita joined Matsushita Electric in 1957 and worked his way up through sales. His own management style was conservative and consensus-seeking, with an emphasis on "wa," the Japanese notion of harmony.
Takumi Anzai was a former Nikkei senior writer covering electronics industry.