Darkness behind Tokyo Games extends to major publishing firm’s chairman

The bribery scandal surrounding last summer’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics has even led to the arrest of the prominent chairman of a major publishing company, who has long led the company’s management.

The special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office has arrested Tsuguhiko Kadokawa, the chairman of major publishing firm Kadokawa Corp., which was a Tokyo Games sponsor, on suspicion of offering bribes.

The chairman is suspected of offering a total of ¥69 million in cash to Haruyuki Takahashi, a former executive board member of the organizing committee of the Tokyo Games, through a bank account of an acquaintance of Takahashi between September 2019 and January 2021 as a reward for giving the Kadokawa side special treatment in the selection of sponsors.

In April 2019, Kadokawa became an “official supporter” of the Games and sold official merchandise after receiving approval from the organizing committee to produce official guidebooks and other publications.

If even a big-name chairman at the forefront of the publishing industry is involved in the dubious relationship between the Takahashi side and sponsor companies, it is inexpressibly appalling.

On Sept. 5, prior to his arrest, the chairman told representatives of media organizations that he had paid Takahashi’s acquaintance’s company, but denied knowledge of the payment being a bribe. “I believe in our employees,” he stated confidently.

The following day, however, two people — one of them a former director and senior managing executive officer of Kadokawa — were arrested on suspicion of offering bribes. What on earth were those words expressed in front of the media? The investigation will focus on clarifying how the chairman was involved in providing the funds.

Kadokawa was formerly known as Kadokawa Shoten Publishing Co., and the chairman, a member of the founding family, became president in 1993.

He has demonstrated great management prowess, such as the business alliance in 2014 with Dwango Co., a tech company that became prominent with the “Niconico Douga” video sharing app. The impact of his arrest on the publishing industry is enormous.

In the latest case, three people, including the former chairman of major business clothing retailer Aoki Holdings Inc., which was a sponsor of the Games, were also arrested and indicted on charges of offering bribes.

Suspicion has also arisen that major advertising firm Daiko Advertising Inc. paid a total of ¥14 million to the Takahashi side, in an effort to urge Takahashi to let Daiko take on the responsibility of recruiting sponsors for the organizing committee.

A record sum of more than ¥370 billion was collected from 68 domestic sponsor companies at the Tokyo Games. This may be because being chosen as a sponsor can enhance a company’s corporate brand power.

It must be said that the illegal funding in the selection of sponsors is a betrayal of the philosophy of the “festival of peace.”

Japan is also seeking to host the 2030 Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Sapporo. There is concern that this bribery scandal could impact the bidding efforts. There is an urgent need to ensure transparency in the procedures of selecting sponsors.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 15, 2022)