Hello Kitty’s Creator Has a New CEO, Younger Than Kitty Herself


(Bloomberg) -- The company behind Hello Kitty has a new boss — and he’s younger than the beloved cat character herself.

Sanrio Co., which owns and licenses Hello Kitty and other characters, is appointing 31-year-old Tomokuni Tsuji as president and chief executive officer. He’ll replace his grandfather, Shintaro Tsuji, the 92-year old founder of the company, on July 1.

Hello Kitty’s Creator Has a New CEO, Younger Than Kitty Herself

That will make the younger Tsuji the youngest CEO of any Topix-listed Japanese company, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The mouthless cat, created in 1974, was already 14 when he was born.

Family-based successions are still common at Japanese corporations, most notably at Toyota Motor Corp., where CEO Akio Toyoda is the grandson of the automaker’s founder. The younger Tsuji’s father, Kunihiko Tsuji, had been heir apparent until his sudden death in November 2013.

That succession crisis has left a lot of work for Sanrio’s new CEO to do. The company on Friday posted net income of just 191 million yen for the year ended March, 95% lower than the year earlier and less than 10% of its forecast. The company cited the impact of the coronavirus outbreak in Japan, which forced it to close stores and its theme park, as well as ongoing struggles to fuel growth in Europe, the U.S. and Asia.

Hello Kitty’s Creator Has a New CEO, Younger Than Kitty Herself

In recent years, the company has found some success with the Netflix Inc. show “Aggretsuko” and it has announced plans to team up with New Line Cinema and Warner Brothers for an English-language Hello Kitty movie. But Sanrio’s revenue has dropped for six successive years, and the stock trades at less than one-third the high reached in 2013. The company on Friday also scrapped a mid-term target it set in 2018.

Tsuji is a year younger than Snow Peak Inc.’s Lisa Yamai, who at 32 was the youngest CEO of a Topix-listed company. She too is the granddaughter of the founder of the outdoor and camping goods maker, and the daughter of the previous president.

Sanrio Inc.Tomokuni Tsuji31
Snow Peak Inc.Lisa Yamai32
Livesense Inc.Taichi Murakami33
Can Do Co.Kazuya Kido34

Shintaro Tsuji, a former civil servant, founded Sanrio in 1960 and has been in charge for six decades. He’s also one of the oldest chief executives in the country, younger in age only to Nobutsugu Shimizu, the 94-year-old head of supermarket operator Life Corp. Tsuji will remains at Sanrio as chairman, the company said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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