TEPCO to name NHK chairman as director

May 12, 2012

The 71-year-old chairman of Japan’s public broadcaster has been picked as an outside director of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Fumio Sudo, chairman of the board of governors of Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) and a former president of the steelmaker JFE Holdings Inc., has not been officially appointed but is backed by both TEPCO and the government's Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund (NDF).

A restructuring plan for TEPCO will inject 1 trillion yen ($12.3 billion) of government funds into the embattled utility, giving the government a more than 50-percent share of voting rights in the company and power over the appointment of directors.

TEPCO and the NDF have also decided to name Yoshimitsu Kobayashi, the 65-year-old president of Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings Corp., as a TEPCO outside director. The nominations will become effective on the day of TEPCO's general shareholders' meeting in late June.

Following the shareholders' meeting, TEPCO will become a "company with committees" under Japan’s Companies Law, a type of structure in which outside directors play a major role in decisions on personnel appointments and remuneration for members of management. TEPCO plans to appoint seven outside directors, the majority on an 11-member board of directors.

It will release the names of the prospective directors on May 14, when the utility will announce its financial statements for the fiscal term ending in March 2012.

To rebuild its business, TEPCO plans to raise electricity rates and to restart the reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture from April 2013. The NDF and other concerned parties apparently see Sudo and Kobayashi, both experienced corporate managers, as wise heads capable of overseeing TEPCO's management.

Other prospective outside directors include lawyer Kazuhiko Shimokobe, the chairman of the NDF steering committee, and former industry ministry official Takashi Shimada, a director and the general secretary of the NDF. Shimokobe is expected to become TEPCO's chairman. Other places on the board are still being decided.

Sudo has served since April 2011 as chairman of NHK's board of governors, the highest decision-making organ in the public broadcasting body. The board of governors is not entitled to interfere with what NHK broadcasts, but has the power to determine NHK's management policy and to appoint NHK's president, who is in charge of its broadcasting operations.

The Broadcast Law prohibits full-time NHK governors from holding other posts, but that provision does not apply to Sudo, who is a part-time governor. Some NHK officials are concerned that the public broadcaster may face an ethical issue in reporting about TEPCO if Sudo stays on as an NHK governor.

Sudo also serves as an outside director for housing material maker JS Group Corp., Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. and other companies.

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Fumio Sudo (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Fumio Sudo (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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  • Fumio Sudo (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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