Hello Kitty founder Shintaro Tsuji is passing the torch to his 31-year-old grandson Tomokuni Tsuji as he steps down as CEO of Sanrio at the age of 92.
Tsuji will retire from his position effective July 1, but will remain as Sanrio’s chairman, according to the statement released on June 12 via CNN.
The 92-year-old Japanese businessman founded his company, then called Yamanashi Silk Center gift shop, in 1960 before officially changing its name to Sanrio in 1973. Products with “cute” designs were the company’s best-sellers during its early years of operation, BBC reported.
This led the company’s owner to create its most iconic character, Hello Kitty, with the help of original designer Yuko Shimizu in 1974, Today Online reported.
Tomokuni is currently a senior managing director at Sanrio, but once he takes his grandfather’s place, he will reportedly become the youngest CEO listed on the Topix share index.
“I want to transform the company to better respond to today’s rapidly changing business environment,” he said at a press conference held on June 12.
Typically, family-run companies in Japan pass the reins to its next of kin, but Tsuji’s son passed away in 2013 from a heart attack. This led to the passing the title of CEO to his grandson, who shares a birthday with Hello Kitty on November 1, but is 14 years younger than him.
Sanrio saw its profit fall by 95% for the 2019-2020 fiscal year as the company was reportedly hit badly by the COVID-19 pandemic. Its sales also took a dip by 6.5% on the previous year, as said in the figures report on June 12.
Feature Image via Tomokuni Tsuji via Kyodo News