THE CEO WHO BROKE THE MOLD (int'l edition)
Taizo Nishimuro seems an improbable choice to lead Toshiba Corp. In the company's 122-year history, most Toshiba presidents have been staid engineers with backgrounds in heavy electric fields such as power generation. Nishimuro, in contrast, is a gregarious marketing man who has focused on consumer and information equipment and spent 14 years in the U.S. A CEO with a limp is also highly anomalous in a land where disabilities are often seen as shameful. It also keeps him off the golf course, where many a deal is cut.
Yet Nishimuro's selection over at least eight more senior executives last year reflected Toshiba's new priorities on computers and multimedia. It also reinforces a trend to anoint internationalists to lead Japan's corporate leviathans. ''It's a natural trend,'' says Nishimuro, noting that Toshiba plans to get half its sales from overseas within five years, compared with just over 40% now.
Nishimuro grew up wealthy, the son of a businessman who made a fortune dying kimonos. Nishimuro attended Keio University, a top private institution, and later spent a year at the University of British Columbia. In Vancouver, Nishimuro saw wealth beyond reach at home, where the economy had yet to fully recover from World War II. But with Japanese transistor radios coming onto the market, he also sensed Japan's potential as an exporter. That was why he wanted to work for a manufacturer and turned down more prestigious job offers from American companies and a Japanese trading house. He then steadily climbed the ladder, hopping between assignments in the U.S. and Japan.
Nishimuro still drives himself hard, waking each morning at 5:15 and doing 130 push-ups a day--a number raised from 120 since becoming president. To keep his legs in shape, he steps on a bamboo pole 1,000 times. It's also important, he says, to arrive at work by 7:30. ''Most of Toshiba's workers are in manufacturing and start at 8 a.m. So it's a good idea that I do the same.'' He'll need that mix of humility and dedication to change his company.
By Steven V. Brull in Tokyo
Updated Oct. 2, 1997 by bwwebmaster
Copyright 1997, Bloomberg L.P.