On October 16, investors applauded the initial public offering of staffing company Recruit Holdings, raising its shares by more than seven percent on its first day of trading.
For Japan’s top provider of short-term workers, the 200-billion-yen initial valuation was the second-largest IPO of the year.
However, at least one investor — or, rather, so he thought — was most assuredly not clapping.
According to Shukan Jitsuwa (Nov. 13), a former member of the Yamaguchi-gumi organized crime group has filed paperwork in the Tokyo District Court claiming that he was swindled out of one billion yen in Recruit shares through the work of a financier with a nebulous background — and a penchant for high-profile women.
Takao Oishi, an 81-year-old former upper-level member of the gang, wound up with 30,000 unlisted shares of Recruit stock after a number of transactions that originated with an incorporated scholarship foundation of the company’s founder, Hiromasa Ezoe, who died last year at the age of 76.
“The shares were initially a part of an allotment of 60,000 distributed via the foundation by the first daughter of Ezoe to a related company of clothing brand World,” says the president of a television production company.
The president of World, Hirotoshi Hatasaki, who had close ties to Ezoe, purchased the shares in September of 2004 for 480 million yen, according to a report in Shukan Asahi Geino (Oct. 9).
The following March, 30,000 shares of the allotment purchased by Hatasaki were sold to the president of a video production company for 296 million yen.
That president in turn sold his entire stake to Masashi Aketa, an ostentatious businessman from Hiroshima.
“At the time, Aketa was the president of a company that produced healthy tea products,” says the aforementioned TV production president. “During the filming of a segment, he and the video production president became friendly.”
In September of 2006, Aketa borrowed 600 million yen from Oishi to purchase the shares, which came in the form of three 10,000-share stock certificates.
“Aketa knew Oishi through a fellow organized crime member,” continues the TV president.
The money was never paid back, and Aketa disappeared. He did, however, leave the share certificates in the hands of Oishi.
The certificates, whose use was invalidated at a meeting in July of 2006, restricted transfers of the registered name.
Three years later, Aketa resurfaced at a Tokyo court, where he demanded the registered name for the shares be changed to that of himself.
After the court handed down a ruling in favor of Aketa, Recruit found an unnamed buyer for all of the shares in question, the purchase price for which was not revealed.
Oishi, who had headed the Oishi-gumi, an affiliate gang of the Yamaguchi-gumi based in Okayama Prefecture, resigned from a life of crime in 2012. After a 10-for-1 stock split in July of this year, the ex-gangster believed that he possessed 300,000 shares of Recruit — now with a market value of roughly one billion yen — prior to last month’s IPO.
But with the certificates no longer valid and the shares in a name other than his, Oishi is now suing Recruit.
When contacted by Shukan Asahi Geino, a representative of the public relations section at Recruit refused to comment on the case, and only said that the company abides by the law.
According to revisions made to nationwide laws in 2007, a former gangster must wait five years after retirement before he can possess a bank account or shares of a stock.
“Therefore, Recruit cannot acknowledge Oishi’s claim to the shares,” says journalist Hirotoshi Ito.
This is not the first time a problem regarding the issuing of unlisted shares has surfaced for Recruit, which more than two decades ago found itself embroiled in one of the biggest bribery and insider-trading scandals in Japan’s history.
Ezoe founded the company in 1960 while attending the University of Tokyo. It started as a employment advertising agency for university newspapers.
The company grew quickly through the 1980s, and, in 1988, a Recruit subsidiary went public. However, it was later revealed that dozens of politicians and government officials in the education and labor ministries had received unlisted shares.
For Aketa, this is not his first brush with controversy regarding a recruitment company. In 2006, he is believed to have received a portion of a 10-billion-yen fee for temporary staffing company Goodwill Group’s purchase of a 67-percent stake in the private company Crystal for 88.3 billion yen, with some reports speculating that much of the commission was hidden overseas or funneled to organized crime in a money-laundering bid.
The following year, Goodwill became enmeshed in scandal after it admitted to staffing irregularities that violated Japan’s employment security laws.
More famously, Aketa was rumored to be the sugar daddy of Ai Iijima, the now-deceased ex-adult video actress who gained tremendous popularity as an author and television personality. (According to Shukan Jitsuwa, he was the one who discovered her body in her apartment in Shibuya, Tokyo on the afternoon of December 24, 2008.)
A writer for Shukan Asahi Geino ventured to an address in Saitama Prefecture registered in the name of Aketa but found the premises abandoned. The businessman is believed to now be residing in Dubai.
An journalist covering finance says that disputes similar to Oishi’s are not unusual but his case could be pose particular problems given the background.
“I don’t know if he actually has a case,” journalist Shinichiro Suda tells Shukan Asahi Geino, “but, generally speaking, litigation can contribute to the anxiety of investors, and that would not bode well for Recruit.” (K.N.)
Source: “Yamaguchi-gumi moto saiko kanbu no rikuruuto kabu 10 oku-en o kamikuzu ni shita Ijima Ai no suponsaa,” Shukan Jitsuwa (Nov. 13, pages 46-47)