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26 September 2009

In Memoriam: Shin Takagi

Tag(s): In Memoriam, Leadership & Management, People

I began these blogs three months ago with a piece to the memory of Alan Rundle who was very influential in my early career and had just died at the age of 64 during a 10km race.  Sadly I must return to the idea of commemorating someone I much admired because I recently received the sad news that Shinichi Takagi has passed on. I received the following message from his beloved wife Mariko

Dear friends,

Shin passed away peacefully at home on September 4.

He had been fighting with cancer for three years and in spite of all kinds of treatment, he could enjoy his life hunting, fishing, traveling, golfing, driving his favorite sports car, playing jazz with his trumpet and the time with his family.

About a month ago, he got worse and was having hospice care at home. As he could still take care of himself, the nurse didn't have much to do.
So, we thought he would last much longer....

Although it was short, we think he lived his life fully with lots of quality.

We would like to thank you for your kind friendship all these years.

                              Sincerely,

                            Mariko and family

……………………………………………………………………………..

Shin Takagi joined a major trading house after university and then moved to Sony. Perhaps because of his musicianship he was a gifted linguist and in the course of his long and distinguished career he was to enjoy leading roles for Sony in Germany, Italy, Spain, the USA and the UK speaking all those languages. He played a key role in the early development of Sony Germany and Sony Italy and founded Sony Spain as its first President. After a spell in the US he returned to Europe in 1993 taking over Sony UK and then in 1995 taking responsibility for all Consumer marketing in Europe. He returned to the USA in 1997.

When he came to the UK I was heading up the Consumer business and I was told by a friend in Tokyo that I should be careful as Shin was very aggressive. In fact I found him to be a gentleman. Keen on the business fundamentals, he was both concerned with process – doing the right thing- and with outputs – achieving the right thing- and once he had understood that the British might be understated compared with Americans, for example, but could be just as successful he was a great supporter of all of us.

Gradually he helped me prepare for taking over from him. Dr Ron Sommer, then President of Sony Europe, and Shin and I had dinner in September 1994 when they told me that I would take over as Shin’s successor in charge of the UK sales company the following year. They were actually giving me 9 months notice of this, in Shin’s words, to prepare myself.

When the news of his passing came through I sent it on to the Sony UK Alumni community with whom I am in touch. I had many responses some recording their own reminiscences of Shin. Here are a couple of those:

Jonathan Pearl had a very memorable job interview with him before he joined Sony UK back in 1993. 
“He beckoned me into his office in Sony House and I sat in one of his comfy black leather chairs. He squatted down opposite me like a big sumo wrestler and uttered his first words of the interview….”First date, huh!? We gonna get on?”  This was my first experience of meeting a Japanese businessman and it was not what I was expecting.  He quickly discovered that I love jazz and we spent a good part of the rest of the interview discussing Miles Davis. “

John Parsons says “he was a breath of fresh air to Sony at the time and I very much enjoyed working with him and for him when he was responsible for the UK operations. He certainly was a man who enjoyed life to the maximum. I remember going to an Italian restaurant with him in Staines and the waiters were gobsmacked to hear him speak their language so fluently.”

Shin and I stayed in touch as friends long after we had both left Sony. We exchanged Christmas cards every year, I would send him my quirky newsletters and he would send me a photograph of his family, his lovely wife and three beautiful daughters, the occasional dog and in the last few years husbands for the girls. They were always the same, immaculately presented, showing a loving and devoted family. Fortunately we saw each other three years ago just before his illness. He and Mariko took my wife and daughter out for an elegant Japanese meal in New York. He made it clear that he expected me to reciprocate when they next came to London. Sadly that day never came.

Copyright David C Pearson 2009 All rights reserved





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