A disastrous privatization led to bankruptcy. A CEO who was a Buddhist monk, took no salary, and made employees the priority turned it around.
Mr Inamori, ordained a monk in 1997, may not have been a conventional choice, but he had a reputation for challenging common business practices and putting people before profit, a philosophy the billionaire demonstrated by taking no salary at JAL.
“The fact that I worked for no salary influenced the staff,” he told South China Morning Post some years later. “They could see that I was desperate to rebuild the company, even though I had no links to JAL previously.”
His “first and foremost” priority, according to Mr Seto, was the employees’ welfare, and “this is Mr Inamori’s management philosophy – the idea is the employees do their best, and as a result they contribute to society”.
“He also had confidence, and the most important thing was that he was very thorough with figures. That’s one of the reasons that the company could change so fast. So it was a matter of brains and commitment,” he added.