Hotshot in Fuji’s face

Horie prevails in NBS radio takeover

TOKYO — The Nippon Broadcasting System has lost its last hope of defending itself against a hostile takeover by Livedoor and its president-CEO, hotshot Internet entrepreneur Takafumi Horie.

The Tokyo High Court upheld on Wednesday a lower court ruling that banned NBS from issuing additional shares in Fuji TV. The added shares might have diluted Livedoor’s stake in NBS, which currently amounts to just over 50%.

The moves by Horie suggest the once-stodgy old boys’ network that controls most businesses in Japan is being cracked open.

Although NBS is a major force in Japanese radio broadcasting, Livedoor is eyeing a much bigger target: Fujisankei Communications Group.

Fujisankei, which owns NBS, also serves as an umbrella for almost 100 other media companies, including Fuji TV; film, music and DVD distrib Pony Canyon; the country’s second-largest national daily paper; and a half-dozen parks and museums.

Complicating matters, NBS is Fuji TV’s biggest shareholder, which already gives Livedoor indirect control of Japan’s dominant broadcaster. Livedoor will replace all 19 NBS board members at the general shareholders meeting in June. Horie will take a seat on the board.

“We’re discussing with Fuji TV executives the possibility of forming a business partnership and capital alliance,” Horie said at a press conference Wednesday. “Whether we acquire more Fuji TV shares depends on the result of the meetings.”

Horie, 32, has long irked the staid Japanese business community with his casual dress and brash moves. The U. of Tokyo dropout founded Livedoor in 1996, and it now stands as Japan’s largest free Internet service provider as well as a major software publisher, distributor and network consultant.

Covert approach

Last fall, Horie made a bid for the Kintetsu Buffaloes baseball team in a gesture that was not well received. For the NBS battle, Horie favored a more covert approach. On Feb. 8 he began a stealth purchase of NBS shares during off-trading hours, foiling a public tender Fuji TV launched in January to secure a majority stake in NBS.

Livedoor previously announced plans to buy up Fuji shares. In light of Wednesday’s court ruling, however, Livedoor senior VP Fumito Kumagai said his company would first seek Fuji’s permission.

In addition to its Tokyo headquarters, Livedoor has offices in the U.S., China, Germany, Spain and Thailand.