Kazuo Inamori, founder of the Japanese technology group Kyocera and one of the most influential managers in Asia, has died at the age of 90. The company announced this on Tuesday. Among other things, Inamori managed one of the most spectacular restructurings in Japanese economic history: At the age of 80, he took over the helm at the request of the government after Japan Airlines filed for bankruptcy in 2010 and made the group one of the most profitable airlines in the world within less than three years.
"Leadership by example" was one of Inamori's guiding principles. For the entrepreneur, modesty was a must. With borrowed start-up capital equivalent to 19,000 euros, the future billionaire turned his company, which specializes in fine ceramic materials, into one of the most successful companies in Japan. His books on management philosophy are well known. Every Kyocera employee carries a booklet of Inamori's principles with them.
The model entrepreneur founded management schools that teach an ethical form of corporate management. In Japan, Inamori was a moral authority. "Most MBA schools teach how to make the greatest profit in the short term. My philosophy is based on sustainable success that also creates value for the public," he once explained in an interview.
In 2010, when Japan's government allowed JAL, a well-known large corporation, to go bankrupt for the first time so that it could be restructured, Inamori came to the rescue. It was one of the biggest bankruptcies in Japanese history and shook the entire industry. Inamori cut 16,000 jobs or around a third of the workforce, discontinued unprofitable routes and phased out gas-guzzling large aircraft. Thanks to the manager, JAL returned to the stock market.
The self-made man, who came from a humble background, was a Buddhist and, after relinquishing management of the company, joined a temple in Kyoto, where Kyocera is based, as a monk for a while. In 1984, Inamori founded a foundation from his private fortune, which annually awards the Kyoto Prize - alongside the Nobel Prize, one of the highest awards for achievements in science and culture worldwide. It is awarded in the categories of art and philosophy, high technology and basic research.