Tempers fray at Livedoor meeting

Shareholders still angry despite Horie's departure

TOKYO – Takafumi Horie may have been kicked out of one-time Internet powerhouse Livedoor, but the company’s misfortunes still have the power to get Japan’s army of small stockholders worked up.

Shareholders Wednesday rushed the stage at a meeting to announce a new board of directors.

The 1,800 shareholders in attendance at Tokyo’s Makuhari Messe convention center listened to representative director Noriyuki Yamazaki apologize for the drastic decline in company’s fortunes. These began with the arrests of former company president Takafumi Horie and his management team in January for violations of Japan’s Securities and Exchange Law. Yamazaki explained that the company had falsely stated its earnings to boost its stock price.

But after a three hours Q&A session Yamazaki, who officially stepped down from his post at the meeting, stopped taking questions and started reading a list of new directors. Shareholders waiting in long lines at the mikes to ask more questions then rushed the stage and jostled security guards. Yamazaki and other execs beat a hasty retreat. After 25 minutes they returned and took another hour of questions until 7:00 p.m.

Earlier, Yamazaki announced that Livedoor would seek damages from Horie and his team, though he did not state an amount. Livedoor shares fell from a height of Y742 on January 4 to Y94 when the company was delisted from the Tokyo Stock Exchange on April 14.

Among the new appointees to the board were company prexy Kozo Hiramatsu, who took over following Horie’s arrest, executive VP Yukihiro Shimizu and VP Noritaka Ochiai. Usen prexy Yasuhide Uno, who bought a 12.75% stake in Livedoor from the Fuji TV web, was named an outside director, together with Usen director Eiji Sato.

Once a high flying Internet start-up, Livedoor last year mounted an aggressive takeover bid for a radio company owned by the Fuji TV web. The bid failed but Fuji ended up buying a 12.75% stake in Livedoor for Y44 billion ($386 million). In March this year, the web sold its Livedoor shares to Uno, prexy of broadband giant Usen, for about Y9.5 billion ($63 million). Usen and Livedoor have since moved to establish business ties, but Yamazaki told shareholders that, contrary to press reports, the two companies have yet to formalize their links.

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