Dentsu CEO Tadashi Ishii to quit over employee suicide blamed on overwork


Tokyo: Dentsu Inc. president and chief executive officer Tadashi Ishii will leave the top job at Japan’s biggest advertising agency to take responsibility for the Christmas Day 2015 suicide of an employee who had worked excessive hours.

Ishii, 65, will step down in January after almost six years at the helm, the advertiser said in a statement late Wednesday in Tokyo. A successor will be appointed after the company’s board meets next month, it said Thursday, without specifying a date.

Ishii’s move came after the Tokyo Labor Bureau said Wednesday it would refer the company and officials who manage working hours to prosecutors. The world’s fifth-largest advertising agency holding group said in November it was cooperating with a labour ministry probe after a 24-year-old employee’s suicide last year was ruled as related to excessive overtime.

Dentsu shares declined to the lowest level in two weeks in Tokyo trading after Ishii, who has been president since 2011, announced his resignation without naming an obvious successor. The company has one senior executive vice president and chief financial officer, Shoichi Nakamoto, two executive vice presidents and eight senior vice presidents, according to its website.

Matsuri Takahashi’s suicide put Dentsu under the spotlight over excessive work loads. She had worked 105 hours of overtime over the course of a month from 9 October 2015, according to a report in the Asahi newspaper.

Since last month, workers at Dentsu have been barred from logging more than 65 hours of overtime a month, down from the previous limit of 70.

Work issues were a contributing factor in 2,159 suicides in 2015, according to a health and labour ministry white paper published in October. The paper cited data from the National Police Agency and Cabinet Office.

The shares fell as much as 1.6% to 5,450 yen, the lowest level since 15 December, and traded at 5,480 yen as of 10:20am in Tokyo. The company has a market value of about $13.5 billion.

The agency’s clients have included LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE, Diageo Plc, Nestle SA, SoftBank Group Corp. and Electronic Arts Inc., according to data compiled by Bloomberg. It had about 43,000 employees in 124 countries worldwide, with about 49 percent in Japan, according to its annual report