The Business On... Takafumi Horie, Founder, Livedoor
Thursday 28 April 2011
I remember Livedoor – whatever happened to it?
Mr Horie founded the internet business in 1995 after dropping out of college – it was very successful and hugely acquisitive. At its peak, the company was worth $9bn, based in the same Tokyo office as Goldman Sachs and even tried to buy Fuji, the broadcaster. Then, in 2006, an accounting scandal rocked the company. It was broken up and sold off.
And Mr Horie's fate?
Mixed. He was sentenced to 30 months in jail for accounting fraud but has avoided prison through a string of appeals. Until yesterday, that is, when Japan's Supreme Court upheld the sentence. On the plus side, Mr Horie – still known affectionately as Horiemon – has reinvented himself as a pundit and business guru since Livedoor's collapse and is widely admired. He boasts 700,000 followers on Twitter, who he has just told he will be in jail within a month.
Why do people like him?
He definitely struck a chord with younger Japanese, particularly those of an entrepreneurial bent, many of whom share his frustration with the conservative attitude of the business class in the country. Mr Horie used to turn up to meetings with the old guard dressed in a T-shirt and made a great show of being bored by the slow pace of decision making.
He has an eye for image then?
Definitely. He's seen as a brash young upstart – the Ferrari helped – and while bids for Fuji, as well as a baseball team, were unsuccessful, they fuelled the publicity. Many people believe the establishment was out to get him – and that the accounting charges for which he will now be jailed were never a criminal matter.
Still, isn't this rather a dramatic fall from grace?
Indeed. It is only six years since Mr Horie ran for Parliament, having been encouraged to do so by the then Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi (he lost that bid too). Still, expect Mr Horie to continue his commentary on Japanese business life from his prison cell – assuming the authorities allow him to do so – and to bounce back unapologetically once he is released.
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