The Business On: Masahiro Okafuji, President and CEO, Itochu Corp

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Do I know him?

Not unless you're an expert on Japanese trading companies – Itochu is one of the biggest such businesses in the country.



Do I need to know him?

Maybe. Itochu has just bought a British business with which you almost certainly will be familiar. It's paying £637m for Kwik Fit, the drive-in tyre-fitters. So if for some reason you decide that you actually could have got better than a Kwik Fit fitter, he's the man to whom you should address your complaint.



Isn't that rather a curious deal?

Actually, no. Outside of Japan, this type of company, which buys and sells some pretty disparate corporate assets all over the world, is unusual, but the model seems to work. And Itochu already owns Stapleton's Tyre Services in this country, so Kwik Fit will be a good fit for it. The deal may even need to be cleared by the Competition Commission.



Will Mr Okafuji be getting his hands dirty?

Probably not. But maybe he'll add some Kwik Fit overalls to the 200 suits and 60 pairs of shoes he owns. To be fair, he has spent much of his career working in Itochu's extensive textiles operation (it started out as a kimono manufacturer 150 years ago) so the interest in clobber is partly a professional one.



What should Kwik Fit staff expect?

Well, they won't be able to get away with grunting at customers for much longer. Mr Okafuji has a thing about communication skills – new recruits to Itochu are sent on language courses, often to learn English. We've come across the odd Kwik Fit fitter who might benefit from that.



A bit of a culture shock, then?

It's not the first time Kwik Fit has changed hands, though. Founded by Scottish businessman Sir Tom Farmer in 1971, he sold the business to Ford for more than £1bn in 1999. Six years later, it sold Kwik Fit on to PAI Partners, a private equity concern, which cashed out yesterday. Itochu is promising to invest in the business, which made a profit of £41m in the first half of last year.

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