Seven & i's 83-year-old CEO quits after board rejects his proposal

Thu Apr 7, 2016 7:53pm EDT
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By Taiga Uranaka and Ritsuko Shimizu

TOKYO (Reuters) - The veteran boss of retail group Seven & i Holdings Co Ltd (3382.T: Quote), who pioneered 24-hour convenience stores in Japan four decades ago, said on Thursday that he is stepping down to take responsibility for a failed management reshuffle.

The patriarch's sudden departure without a named successor creates a power vacuum at the sprawling conglomerate, with its 50,000 employees and $90 billion in sales, just as it revamps struggling supermarkets and department stores.

The boardroom surprise at one of the country's biggest firms also signals a change in atmosphere in Japanese corporate governance, where management traditionally enjoyed support by big shareholders and board members.

The 83-year-old Chief Executive and Chairman Toshifumi Suzuki said he decided to quit after a board meeting in which he failed to garner enough votes to replace the president of group convenience store chain, Seven-Eleven Japan.

"It is my lack of virtue and I am unbearably ashamed," Suzuki told a news conference, without elaborating on the timing of his resignation.

"I was supposed to attend an analyst meeting tomorrow. But I cannot go there and explain this year's prospects anymore after I decided to quit."

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A pedestrian walks in front of a signage of Seven & I Holdings' 7-Eleven convenience store in Tokyo, Japan, April 7, 2016. Picture taken April 7, 2016. REUTERS/Yuya Shino