Akikusa, Naoyuki 1938–
Chairman and representative director, Fujitsu Limited
Born: December 12, 1938, in Tochigi, Japan.
Education: Waseda University, BA, 1961.
Family: Son of a former president of Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corporation; married (wife's name unknown); children: two.
Career: Fujitsu Ltd., 1961–1977, general manager, public service systems engineering division; 1977–1991, group senior vice president, system engineering group; 1991–1992, senior vice president; 1992–1996, executive vice president; 1996–1997, executive vice president, group president of software and service business promotion group; 1997–1998, executive vice president, group president of China project promotion group; 1998–2000, president; 2000–2003, president and chief executive officer; 2003–, chairman and representative director.
■ Naoyuki Akikusa spent his entire professional career in service to Fujitsu Limited, the company that developed Japan's first commercial computer in 1954. After expanding into mainframe computer and semiconductor production and factory automation, Fujitsu became the premiere computer manufacturer in 1979, surpassing IBM. The company entered the personal-computer marketplace in the late 1980s; by 1995 it held an 18 percent share of consumers and was expanding globally. In 1998 Fujitsu suffered from the slump in the semiconductor market and the weak Asian economy. Akikusa took over leadership of Fujitsu in this tough environment and battled to pull the company out of the slump during his five-year tenure as president. In the process he drew fire from critics for not acting according to Japanese business principles. Akikusa lost his position as president at Fujitsu because of his inability to produce short-term gains, but he continued to hold influence
in the company as its chairman. Known for his innovative style, Akikusa was widely respected around the world and frequently spoke at technology conferences and seminars.
TROUBLESHOOTER AND SELF-TAUGHT TECHNICIAN
Akikusa spent the first 35 years of his career developing and proving his technical prowess. Joining Fujitsu as its first systems engineer despite his lack of an engineering background, he taught himself how to program computers and built up the company's systems integration business, where he spent most of his career. While serving as the general manager of the public service systems engineering division, he secured a mainframe contract with the Australian Bureau of Statistics that showed the global business community Fujitsu was a company to be reckoned with.
As executive vice president, Akikusa developed Fujitsu's global solutions business. His group created two products: Propose, a service product framework solution, and Solutionvision, a comprehensive solution product. Both products became key profit centers for Fujitsu.
In addition to being an innovator in systems solutions, Akikusa proved a capable leader in a crisis. On January 17, 1995, the Kobe earthquake destroyed Fujitsu's regional office in western Japan. By the end of that day, Akikusa, who was the manager of that region, drafted plans for restoring clients' computer systems and established an alternative office to take over the operations in Kobe.
After assuming the role of president of Fujitsu in 1998, Akikusa had to marshal his systems expertise and troubleshooting ability to turn the company around. In 1999 Fujitsu's profits in the semiconductor business had dried up, and its other three business units were suffering. Like its competitors, Fujitsu needed restructuring because of smaller profit margins. Long a champion of global operations, Akikusa stepped up his efforts to make Fujitsu a global information technology company, attempting to grab a share of the global services and outsourcing business that IBM and EDS held. Akikusa felt that by leveraging the company's expertise in computers, communications, and systems integration, Fujitsu could become the second- or third-largest company in those segments by 2003.
In 1999 Akikusa eliminated three of Fujitsu's 12 semiconductor operations and filled the company's need for chips by outsourcing to a company in Taiwan. Recognizing that Fujitsu needed to build a global presence to compete and survive, Akikusa pushed the company into online trading, auctions, and electronic commerce services for businesses and consumers. In March 1999 Fujitsu spent $225 million to purchase Nifty Serve, the largest Internet service provider in Japan. The purchase also put Fujitsu in a good position to take advantage of the next generation of cellular phone systems and highspeed data communications.
Fujitsu reorganized again in 2001, eliminating more than 16,000 jobs and ceasing its manufacturing of hard-disk drives for personal computers. Akikusa believed that Fujitsu was facing an extremely elongated U-shaped recovery but that the IT market would grow in the long term. Experts were appalled at Fujitsu's results for the first quarter of 2001. With every major product division in the red, the company's outlook was bleak. The competition that forced the restructuring was not going away but likely to grow. By the end of 2001 Akikusa's vision for the company had not come into focus. The company had made little progress in capturing market share in Europe and the United States, despite heavy investment by Fujitsu.
Akikusa was labeled a taboo breaker because of his dramatic reorganization and extensive layoffs. A sacred principle of corporate Japan was that no matter how bad business got, employees kept their jobs. As the first of many Japanese leaders to follow a new code of conduct, Akikusa was unusual in his ability to climb the corporate ladder in Japan despite his maverick techniques. Although some critics faulted Akikusa for not establishing a focus for Fujitsu as either an Internet business firm or a hardware maker, many investors believed in Akikusa's business transformation. The company's stock was trading well when Akikusa announced Fujitsu was moving away from its core businesses and into new growth areas.
Akikusa had a down-to-earth style. At his unpretentious office he had an open-door policy, and when traveling he used his computer to keep in close touch with his managers and clients. In April 2002 Akikusa established Fujitsu University to train company executives to speak English, which Akikusa considered the language of business. Each year 6,400 employees studied English. Through the university's Global Knowledge Institute, executives with a good command of English put their skills to use in developing business models. Under the personal supervision of Akikusa, the executives had three months to devise their models and then present their research to Akikusa and other executives.
Fujitsu lost ¥380 billion in 2001 and ¥122 billion in 2002. With the goal of maximizing shareholder value, the company announced new corporate governance and business management structures in March 2002. The board was streamlined and a system of corporate executive officers introduced. In June 2003 Akikusa became chairman of the company, with Hiroaki Kurokawa succeeding him as president.
After becoming chairman, Akikusa was able to focus on long-term goals. He arranged a deal with Verizon to manufacture several hundred million dollars' worth of fiber-optic equipment for Verizon's North American operation and established a joint venture with Sun Microsystems to merge its high-end server operations with those at Fujitsu. Sun and Fujitsu would develop a Sparc processor together and then resell each other's respective product lines. In addition, he capitalized on the market to build plasma and flat screens in a joint venture with Hitachi. As a result of these deals, Fujitsu realized a ¥49.7 billion profit in fiscal year 2003. By the middle of the first decade of the 21st century, with European markets expanding and business in the United States expected to rally, Fujitsu began catching up with IBM in the global market and hoped to double its profit to more than ¥100 billion.
Akikusa also gained a reputation as a protector of the environment. According to the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, a diverse worldwide grassroots organization that engages in research, advocacy, and organizing around the environmental and human health problems caused by the rapid growth of the electronics industry, Fujitsu was the only firm it deemed worthy of a passing grade among its corporate peers for dealing with e-waste and promoting environmental awareness within its corporate culture. Fujitsu's grade was published in the January 4, 2003, Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition 4th Annual Report Card. Akikusa has been quoted as saying, "Environmental preservation is one of the most pressing issues we all face as members of the human race." Akikusa moved environmental issues up Fujitsu's priority list from countermeasures to strategies.
See also entry on Fujitsu Limited in International Directory of Company Histories.
sources for further information
"Fujitsu Limited Fiscal Year 2003 Year-End Report," Company News Feed, June 7, 2004.
"Fujitsu Selects New Head in Revamp Drive," Nikkei Weekly, April 28, 2003.
"Fujitsu Striving to Boost Sales, Company President Says," AsiaBizTech, January 5, 1999.
"Fujitsu to Invest Heavily in Hardware," Nikkei Weekly, March 15, 2004.
"IT Strategies in the Age of Broadband: Commoditizing IT," Second Nikkei Global Management Forum Web site, http://www.nikkei.co.jp/hensei/ngmf2000/pdf/gm_web/file/akikusa_e.html (November 6, 2000).
Kallender, Paul, "Fujitsu to Cut 16,400 in $2.5B Restructuring," EETimes, August 27, 2001, p. 24.
Kunii, Irene M., "A Behemoth of the Net?" BusinessWeek, August 30, 1999, p. 214.
——, "Fujitsu: Beyond Big Iron," BusinessWeek, March 29, 1999, p. 76.
——, "Japan's Tech Giants Go under the Knife," BusinessWeek, September 10, 2001, p. 18.
"Kurokawa to Become Fujitsu President in Late June," Jiji Press Ticker, April 25, 2003.
Morgan, Timothy Prickett, "Sun Throws in with Fujitsu for Future Joint Sparc Platform," ComputerWire, June 2, 2004.
Murakami, Mutsuko, "The Taboo Breaker," Asiaweek, October 26, 2001.
Rahman, Bayan, "Order Represents Turnaround for Fujitsu," Financial Times Limited, June 25, 2003.
Schuch, Beverly, and David Piper, "Fujitsu's Transformation," CNNfn, transcribed by FDCH emedia, September 17, 1999, transcription #091705cb.112.
"Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition 2002 Computer TakeBack Report Card," http://www.svtc.org/cleancc/pubs/2002report.htm#fujitsu (January 9, 2003).