Japan toys with shareholder capitalism just as the West balks

AYA MURAKAMI hardly looks like a corporate raider. Dressed in black, the slight 31-year-old is, if anything, more like a kunoichi, or female ninja. In her office above a 7-Eleven store in Tokyo, she is disarmingly frank. She tells how, as a youngster, her father Yoshiaki Murakami, a well-known bureaucrat turned activist investor, taught her the value of money by making her bet on the cost of dinner. As a teenager, she once caught a glimpse of him on television on a flight home from boarding school in Switzerland. Shortly afterwards, in 2007, he was convicted of insider trading. At university in Japan, her fellow students pointed fingers at her.

Though her father was spared jail, the experience would have scared most offspring away from a career in finance. Not Ms Murakami. She now runs C&I Holdings, a family fund that enables her to influence how Japanese executives—“99% men”—run their companies. Her approach is uncompromising. “Whether I am female or young, I still hold the same number of shares and I can exercise them.” Last week the Murakamis launched a hostile bid for Kosaido, whose activities range from printing to funeral homes. They are in a race against Bain Capital, a $105bn buy-out firm.

For anyone familiar with Japan, the story of a young woman taking on the business establishment...

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