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Business trends

Half of Japan's 10 highest-paid bosses work for SoftBank

Record number of corporate officers earn $1m or more amid global talent search

Clockwise from top left: SoftBank Group's Ronald Fisher, Marcelo Claure, Katsunori Sago, Simon Segars and Ken Miyauchi. (Board photos courtesy of the company)

TOKYO -- Japan reached a new high of 557 corporate officers paid at least 100 million yen ($927,000) in the year ended March as more companies boosted compensation to attract the talent needed to compete internationally.

Six of the 10 highest-earning executives hailed from overseas, data compiled by Tokyo Shoko Research shows, with five of the 10 working for the same employer: SoftBank Group.

Though Japan still trails the West in executive pay, more companies here are adopting Western models of linking compensation to performance metrics, such as earnings or stock prices, as investors call for greater accountability.

The best-paid executive was SoftBank Group Vice Chairman Ronald Fisher, at nearly 3.3 billion yen, or $30.3 million. Asked at a June 19 shareholders meeting about the high figure, Chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son pointed to executives outside Japan paid even more.

Three others at the technology and investment group earned at least 1 billion yen, including Chief Operating Officer Marcelo Claure. Claure, who also serves as executive chairman of SoftBank-owned U.S. wireless carrier Sprint, received the overall third-highest compensation at 1.8 billion yen.

Takeda Pharmaceutical CEO Christophe Weber followed Claure at 1.76 billion yen, with long-term incentives accounting for 851 million yen of his pay at Japan's top drugmaker.

Scandal-tarred names were among the list.

Ousted Nissan Motor Chairman Carlos Ghosn came in fifth with 1.65 billion yen, cut back from the initially planned 2.5 billion yen following his arrest last year on suspicion of financial misconduct involving allegedly underreporting his compensation. Though a portion of Ghosn's monthly compensation has already been paid, Nissan is considering suing for damages and intends not to pay the rest.

At Nomura Holdings, whose brokerage arm was recently penalized for leaking information on proposed changes to Tokyo Stock Exchange rules, only Group CEO Koji Nagai made the million-dollar list. The year before, seven Nomura group executives did.

The top 10 included chiefs at two relatively low-profile companies: builder Shinnihon and top Japanese semiconductor equipment maker Tokyo Electron.

Further down the list was Kinya Seto, who recently made a comeback as CEO of kitchen and bath outfitter Lixil Group, Japan's top building materials supplier.

Around 40% of listed companies now link compensation to earnings or stock prices.

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