Goodbye, Hello-Kitty-CEO!

Shintaro Tsuji founded the company, that created Hello Kitty. He is leaving after 60 (!) years and handing control to his grandson. The founder will retire on July 1, the company said in a statement Friday. Shintaro will remain as chairman. Tomokuni Tsuji, 31, would take over to “ensure efficient decision making,” it added.

Having lived for 92 years and managed a business for 60, I have learned that the world continues to change at an ever-increasing speed. Even our food, clothing, and shelter have undergone remarkable changes over less than 100 years. Women’s fashion in particular has changed dramatically. We hardly ever see the beautiful Japanese-style clothing anymore. For the past 60 years, the Sanrio Social Communication Business has strived to inspire people around the world to get along peacefully under the slogan Small Gift, Big Smile.

(origin: Sanrio.com)

Sanrio was founded as the Yamanashi Silk Center gift shop in 1960, and changed its name to Sanrio in 1973. Sanrio was one of the first Japanese companies to see potential in the character licensing business — and Hello Kitty is by far its most popular and profitable creation. Since she was created in 1974 and a year later Hello Kitty has appeared on everything. They produce snowboard, kitchen tools, toilet seat, Swarovski jewelry, wine, beer, golf bag, and even a condom and vibrator (although the vibrator was originally advertised as a neck massager, as most electronic items in Japan). 50,000 product families bear the name of the character. The cartoon cat-like figure’s appeal was instrumental in spreading “kawaii” Japanese pop culture overseas. (Kawaii, “kawaisa” means ‘cuteness).

Tomokuni Tsuji, meanwhile, already has a special connection with Hello Kitty: They share the same birthday, November 1. Tomokuni is 14 years younger. He is currently a senior managing director at Sanrio, and will become the youngest CEO of a company listed on the Topix share index.

I want to transform the company to better respond to today’s rapidly changing business environment

he told a press conference on Friday.

Family-run businesses in Japan often pass on the reins to their eldest sons. The founder’s son, Kunihiko, died in 2013 from heart failure, according to the company.

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