Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Japan’s Business Owners Can’t Find Successors. This Man Is Giving His Away.

Estate planningAs people continue to live longer and fewer babies are being born, countries in East Asia are grappling with the economic consequences. In a 2019 presentation, Japan’s trade ministry projected that by 2025 nearly 630,000 businesses could close shop due to the lack of leadership to carry on the business. This could cost Japan’s economy $165 billion and as many as 6.5 million jobs.

Traditionally, mergers and acquisitions have not been held in high regard culturally. As a result, many feel that it is better to shut down their company rather than sell it to a stranger or, worse, a competitor.

Hidekazu Yokoyama took a unique approach. As the owner of a logistics business on the Hokkaido island of Japan, he spent years building a thriving business only to find his children and his employees are uninterested in carrying on the family business. His solution was to post a notice advertising his company with the sale price of zero. Before posting the notice, he turned to a government-run matching program but was unable to find someone to take over. Eventually, the bank suggested advertising with Relay, which has appealed to potential buyers by appealing to their sense of community and purpose.

Thirty inquiries came in from those who were interested in Mr. Yokoyama’s offer. He chose 26-year-old Kai Fujisawa who showed enthusiasm for the business. The pair have reported a steep learning curve and concerns about the future, however, Fujisawa has expressed he is committed to the business.

For more information see Ben Dooley and Hisako Ueno “Japan’s Business Owners Can’t Find Successors. This Man Is Giving His Away.” The New York Times, January 3, 2023.

Special thanks to Lewis Saret (Attorney, Washington, D.C.) for bringing this article to my attention. 


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