Fortune magazine yesterday named Canon president Fujio Mitarai as its Asian business leader of the year, hailing him for turning around a Japanese company where others have sought foreign bosses.
Mitarai, who takes over in May as head of the Japan Business Federation, the country's top industry lobby, "may be the best Japanese CEO in a decade," Fortune's Asia editor Clay Chandler said.
"His willingness to make tough choices early and independently is the difference between success at Canon and the mess at Sony," he wrote.
"The turnaround may not have been as dramatic as Nissan's, but changes at that company came at the hands of a Western CEO and only after foreign investors gained management control," Chandler said.
"Mitarai turned Canon around before being forced to by outsiders," he added.
Once debt-ridden Canon has grown to Japan's largest maker of digital cameras and office automation equipment, widely regarded as one of the companies leading Japan's economic recovery.
The 70-year-old Mitarai, who joined Canon at 26 and has spent his entire career there, is known as an advocate of the classic Japanese company approach, as opposed to the vertical-style "American" management.
Nissan, by contrast, recovered from the brink of oblivion in 1999 to profit under Carlos Ghosn, a Brazilian-born Frenchman of Lebanese descent who is now CEO at France's Renault, which controls the company.
Last year Sony, the global electronics maker, entrusted Howard Stringer, a Welsh-born former television journalist in the US, to be its new chief in a bid to restore its dynamism.