NAGOYA (Kyodo) -- Kazuo Wada, the former chairman of retail group Yaohan which fell into bankruptcy in 1997, has died of natural causes, sources close to him said Thursday. He was 90.
At its peak, Yaohan had outlets in 16 countries spanning Asia, North and South America, and Europe.
After graduating from Nippon University in 1951, Wada -- who died on Aug. 19 -- turned a grocery shop started by his parents in Atami, Shizuoka Prefecture, into a midsize supermarket chain.
He later sought aggressive overseas expansion -- launching one of Asia's largest department stores, in Shanghai, in 1995 -- but filed for bankruptcy protection of the core company Yaohan Japan Corp. in September 1997 after incurring huge debts following the collapse of Japan's asset-inflated bubble economy.
The department store and supermarket group left liabilities of some 160 billion yen ($ 1.5 billion), a retail record at that time in postwar Japan.
In 2000, Wada set up a consultancy targeting young entrepreneurs in Iizuka, Fukuoka Prefecture, and focused on fostering venture companies.
His late mother Katsu is said to have been the inspiration for the 1983 Japanese hit television drama "Oshin."
It depicts a woman born in a poor farming village who overcomes various challenges to succeed as a businesswoman as Japan recovers from the ashes of World War II and achieves rapid economic growth.