Naotoshi Okada will become the new chair and chief executive of the Nikkei Group as the 144-year-old Japanese media company, owner of the Financial Times, wrestles with the downturn brought by Covid-19.
His move comes after chairman Tsuneo Kita announced he will step down at the age of 74, having overseen one the biggest periods of change in the history of the employee-owned publisher.
Together with Okada, a former foreign correspondent and president of Nikkei since 2015, Kita moved the newspaper group online and ventured outside its domestic market in search of growth.
Okada, who is 67, said that as chairman and chief executive of the Nikkei Group, which oversees the company’s strategic direction, he would continue “an unwavering goal to become the world’s strongest business media group”, further expanding its global operations.
Tsuyoshi Hasebe will succeed Okada as president and chief executive of Nikkei Inc, responsible for day to day management of the parent company. He started his career as a reporter, was editor-in-chief of the main Nikkei newspaper from 2016-19 and the company’s head of corporate planning during its £844m acquisition of the Financial Times in 2015.
Setting out his priorities as president, Hasebe said his strategy would focus on digitisation and globalisation, and that he would make “enhancing the quality of our journalism my greatest mission”.
“We also will focus on developing our human resources in a way that will maintain sustainable growth,” he said.
Seeing the looming pressures on Nikkei’s lucrative print business — the circulation of its morning edition alone exceeded 3m — Kita and Okada led the launch of Nikkei’s online edition in 2010, becoming the first Japanese newspaper to use a paywall. Nikkei now has more than 750,000 paying online readers and a print circulation of around 1.9m for its morning edition.
Alongside the digital transition, Kita, a former economics correspondent and editor in New York, and Okada pushed the media group overseas, betting on global growth opportunities in the English language.
Nikkei’s overseas expansion began with the 2011 creation of Nikkei Asia, its own English-language service covering the Asian continent.
But it was dramatically accelerated with the acquisition of the Financial Times from the UK-based publisher Pearson, a swiftly constructed deal that brought together two financial media groups with a history of almost 270 years. The deal was the biggest international acquisition by any Japanese news media group.
Although print circulation has been resilient in Japan, like many of the country’s publishers, Nikkei’s incoming leadership must grapple with ageing demographics, the shift of younger readers online and the need to accelerate the transition to a digital business model, less reliant on advertising and…
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