Research and Insights

How Japanese Billionaires Have Changed Over The Last 20 Years

There is an argument for South Korea being the country that is most similar to Japan, which makes a comparison between the two relevant in this context.

During the same years, South Korea has seen a veritable explosion in the number of billionaires. In 1996, there were seven, while there are 31 in 2016. Across the world, the figure has risen from 424 billionaires in 1996 to 1810 in 2016.

The average age of Japanese billionaires has climbed from 64 to 67. South Korea has seen the same figure drop from 68 to 59, and the world average billionaire age has remained stable at 63.

Japan has seen a rise in relation to the number of female billionaires from zero in 1996 to three in 2016.

An interesting development is that the number of Japanese tech billionaires has exploded over the last twenty years. This might seem counter-intuitive when thinking of the general downward trend for many big Japanese technology companies. A recent example of this has been Sharp , which was acquired by Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., better known as Foxconn.

In 1996, only 8% of Japanese billionaires had generated their funds through technology. It left it tied for fourth together with financials. The top three were real estate (22%), leisure and gambling (17%) and industrial supplies (14%). Fast forward to 2016, and technology accounts for 27% of all Japanese billionaires, followed by retail (19%) and leisure and gambling (14%).

This might be an indication of how Japan’s tech industry is developing similarly to other parts of the world. Over the last 20 years, the technology industry has seen an increased presence of fast-growing companies known as Unicorns (companies valued at more than $1 billion). Japan has also seen an increase in the number of these companies. Their founders, such as Kenji Kasahara (Mixi) and Naruatsu Baba (Colopl), have become billionaires thanks to their personal stakes in their companies.

The average age of tech billionaires (53 years) is also markedly lower than the general average of Japanese billionaires. A closer look at the data collected by Ahmadoff & Company reveals further details about Japanese billionaires.

Fakhri Ahmadov points to how comparatively few Japanese billionaires have inherited their wealth.

“Perhaps the issue is finding the right heirs. Some past stories also point to a failure to clearly identify and / or understand the difference between the roles of manager / CEO and owner / family,” he says.

“Japanese billionaires are focused on one industry, and there seems to be little diversification of wealth during their life time. That becomes an issue if their wealth comes from industries that generally do not take a long view – like gambling, for example.”

The time that Japanese billionaires spend enjoying their ‘titles’ is also relative short. In average, Japanese billionaires have five years with a 10-figure bank account, compared to an average of 13 years for USA billionaires.

See Forbes coverage of the article.


Authors: Fakhri Ahmadov is Managing Director at the firm, [email protected]Nadir Bakhishov is Executive Director and Head of Eastern Europe, [email protected] 

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