Isao Okawa

Isao Okawa, founder, chairman and CEO of Sega Corp., known for videogaming, cable and film ventures, died of heart failure at a Tokyo hospital Friday March 16. He was 74.

He founded computer information service CSK in Osaka in l968 and grew his business aggressively, merging and acquiring more than 30 companies, including ASCII, Sega Enterprises and Bell System 24, competing at one time with Nintendo for videogame leadership in the world, while also building his own assets, estimated to be in the range of 500 billion yen ($4.2 billion).

Sega, however, had to discontinue production of the Dreamcast system hardware in February because of sales slumps, compounded by huge losses in overseas theme parks Sega World in Australia and the U.K. Instead, it decided to concentrate on game machine software development and Internet businesses.

Born the second son of an Osaka clothing material wholesaler, Okawa graduated from Waseda U., where he majored in engineering in 1948, but was hit by tuberculosis and confined to bed for eight years, during which he learned of the growth potential of the computer industry. After his recovery, he accumulated computer business experiences until he inaugurated CSK.

As the leader of the Sega group of companies, his name was often associated with bold business decisions, like the inauguration of the Sega cable channel with TCI and Time Warner in 1993, the affiliation with Shochiku movie studio to develop multimedia software, development of Chinese and Asian market for Sega, and the abortive move in 1997 to merge Bandai toy manufacturer, known later on for its Pokemon success.

Tetsu Kayama, special advisor and joint CEO of Sega, is expected to be named Okawa’s successor at the stockholders meeting in June. Yoshiharu Fukushima, chairman of CSK, will serve as interim chairman.

He is survived by his wife, Fusako.

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