Takahashi suspected of mediating discounted Games sponsorship contract for Aoki

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The home of Haruyuki Takahashi, a former executive member of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralymic organization committee, is seen in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo, on Wednesday.

Haruyuki Takahashi, a former executive board member of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic organizing committee arrested on suspicion of taking bribes from major business clothing retailer Aoki Holdings Inc., had allegedly mediated between the company, the committee and other organizations so that the company would be chosen as a sponsor for the Games, it has been learned.

The 78-year-old suspect allegedly presented the Aoki side with a lower sponsorship fee and obtained an agreement from the company on the signing of the sponsorship contract. Then Takahashi is alleged to have told the committee and others that the company had been informally chosen as an official sponsor for the Games.

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office’s special investigation squad believes that Takahashi gave preferential treatment to Aoki Holdings in the sponsorship contract.

According to informed sources, Takahashi dined with former Aoki Holdings Chairman Hironori Aoki, 83, who was arrested on suspicion of offering bribes, and others in Tokyo in January 2017, where Takahashi recommended that they pay ¥750 million for an Olympic sponsorship, or half the standard rate, and obtained an agreement from the Aoki side to sign a sponsorship contract. After that, Takahashi told advertising giant Dentsu Inc., the Tokyo Games’ exclusive marketing agent, that Aoki Holdings had been informally chosen as a sponsor company.

The Aoki side decided to pay the ¥750 million as proposed by Takahashi. In June 2017, Aoki Holdings, told by Takahashi to pay ¥250 million in advance, wired the amount to a subsidiary of Dentsu and the money was later paid to Commons Inc., a Tokyo-based consulting firm headed by Takahashi. Takahashi allegedly paid donations to multiple sporting organizations through another advertising agency and used the remaining amount, well in excess of 100 million, to cover the deficits of a steak restaurant that he operates and repay debts.

Concerning the ¥250 million payment, Hironori Aoki reportedly told investigators during voluntary questioning by prosecutors before being arrested, “That was advance payment of the sponsorship fee.” Meanwhile, Takahashi is quoted by prosecutors as saying, “That was compensation for unpaid consulting services I had provided in the past.”

In October 2018, the organizing committee announced that it had chosen Aoki Holdings as a sponsor for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. Aoki Holdings was an official supporter, the third highest rank among domestic sponsors for the Games, and the sponsorship contract fee was ¥500 million. The standard fee for a Tokyo Games sponsorship of this rank is believed to be around ¥1.5 billion. If so, the fee for Aoki Holdings must have been significantly reduced.

Selection procedures for sponsor companies are supposed to be conducted between the companies concerned, the organizing committee and Dentsu. The special investigation squad suspects that the selection of Aoki Holdings as a sponsor had effectively been decided before the procedures by the organizing committee began because of the intermediation by Takahashi.

Takahashi was allegedly asked by Aoki and others to give their company preferential treatment in Olympic-related businesses and was arrested on Aug. 17 on suspicion of receiving more than 50 bribe payments, which totaled ¥51 million, as rewards from October 2017 to March this year.

Takahashi reportedly denies these allegations, telling investigators of the special investigation squad, “Those payments were consulting fees that are not related to the Games.”

Aoki also reportedly denied the allegations, saying, “We did not pay for Takahashi’s work as an executive board member and the payment was not bribery.”