Media Mix, Aug. 4, 2019

Yoshimoto President Akihiko Okamoto

Here’s this week’s Media Mix about the toxic connection between TV and talent agencies, mainly Yoshimoto Kogyo. As mentioned in the column, almost all of Japan’s major commercial TV networks hold shares in Yoshimoto, which strengthens their mutual dependence, but as Taro Imaichi, a securities writer, explained in a recent blog post, it’s important to note that Yoshimoto is not a listed company, meaning its shares are not publicly traded. Imaichi claims that were Yoshimoto a listed company, they would not be able to get away with many of their questionable practices because they’d be subject to shareholder scrutiny and calls for better governance.

Imaichi has firsthand knowledge of Yoshimoto’s development as a company. It was founded in 1932 and was hardly a major player in the show business world until the 1980s, when Imaichi himself worked for an advertising agency. One of his jobs was negotiating for talent in TV commercials, and he would occasionally visit Yoshimoto’s offices in Osaka, which he described as being dirty, dark, and cluttered. Their fortunes started to rise in the late 80s during the so-called manzai boom, which they were instrumental in sparking. At the time Yoshimoto was a listed company, and had been since 1949. Then, in the late 2000s, Sony launched a takeover bid for Yoshimoto, buying all their outstanding shares with cash. In 2009, Yoshimoto was delisted by the new management (a company that seems to have popped up just for the purpose of managing Yoshimoto), an acknowledgment of some of the shady dealings it discovered at the agency. Imaicihi mentions the scandal of August 2011 involving Yoshimoto’s top comedian at the time, Shinsuke Shimada, who quit show business altogether. Imaichi thinks that if Yoshimoto had been listed at the time, a more thorough investigation of Shimada’s business dealings would have taken place and might have ruined the company, since outside shareholders could have successfully sued.

Since the shareholders now are all related companies, they are all in the same boat, so to speak, and thus are mutually protective of one another’s interests, which now includes a huge contract with the government regarding Yoshimoto’s emerging venture business in international education programs. TV won’t report on the dubiousness of this program, which has afforded Yoshimoto some ¥10 billion in government subsidies, because they have a stake in it as well.

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