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Mon, Mar 20, 2006 - Page 10 News List

Livedoor's white knight is no Horie

DIFFERENT STYLES Yasuhide Uno, who has become the Web firm's largest shareholder, may be young and rich like its founder, but that's where the similarities end

AFP , TOKYO

President of Japanese Internet service provider Usen, Yasuhide Uno, left, and Livedoor president Kozo Hiramatsu shake hands at a news conference in Tokyo last Thursday. Uno, 42, has come to the rescue of scandal-plagued Internet firm Livedoor.

PHOTO: AFP

They both started their businesses young and became millionaires riding on the soaring growth of Japan's Internet boom.

But Yasuhide Uno, the soft-spoken cable broadcast entrepreneur who has come to the rescue of scandal-plagued Internet firm Livedoor, is no Takafumi Horie.

Horie, 33, the flamboyant founder of Livedoor who was once feted as an icon of a brasher new corporate Japan, has been in jail since late January accused of financial fraud.

Uno, 42, made his fortune turning Usen, once a small company setting up sound systems, into a major provider of movies on the Web through fiber-optic broadband.

Uno said on Thursday he will personally acquire a 12.74 percent stake in Livedoor for about ?9.5 billion (US$80.6 million), becoming the largest shareholder other than Horie himself.

He bought the stake from major television network Fuji, which reluctantly tied up with Livedoor to end a widely publicized hostile takeover bid by Horie last year.

Uno is hoping to bring together Livedoor's Internet portal site and Usen's broadband services, although the details are still being worked out.

Uno, whose stylishly unkempt hair and thin facial hair have won him many female admirers, said in a recent magazine interview that he was a different breed from Horie.

"Mr. Horie would try if there is a 10 percent chance [of success]. But I won't make a move unless there is an 80 to 90 percent chance," he said.

Uno took over Usen in 1998 after the death of his father, who was notorious for putting cables on electric poles without the government's permission.

"Usen used to set up cables without paying commission to power companies. Even if authorities removed the cables as illegal, Usen would put them all back again overnight," said retired media studies professor Eiichi Oshida.

"The new Usen president is not an outlaw. He operates his business more legitimately," he said.

Unlike Horie, who was inspired to start a company when he realized the potential of the Internet, Uno has said he turned to the Web because he always wanted to be an entrepreneur.

But Uno is not without his expensive tastes.

The Nikkan Sports tabloid said he owns both a BMW and a Porsche.

But it said he had told his friends not to buy a horse or a Ferrari -- two of Horie's prized status symbols.

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