Thayer Watkins
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The Mitsui Group

The Mitsui Group keiretsu of course had its origins in the Mitsui zaibatsu, but this archetypical political-financial firm did not pass through the transition of Japanese defeat in World War II with its power and prestige intact. There was considerable loss of power and influence. In particular the Mitsui Bank which had in effect been the bank of the Imperial government emerged from the transition period as only the eighth largest city bank. In 1990 the Mitsui Bank merged with Taiyo Kobe Bank to raise its stature but the combined banks still did not give Mitsui number one rank. In 1992, perhaps to avoid having the Mitsui name attached to a second place bank, Mitsui changed its bank's name to Sakura.

Sakura Bank is one of the core enterprises of the Mitsui Group but the leadership of the group has been concentrated more in the group's shosha, Mitsui Bussan. The other core enterprise is Mitsui Fudosan, the real estate operation. The chairmanship of the management council for the Mitsui Group is held sequentially by the three core enterprises.

There are 26 members of the Mitsui Group with 171 affiliates in which Mitsui Group ownership of stock constitutes 10 percent or more. There are other large enterprises such as Honda, Sony and Toyota that have close business and financial relationships with the Mitsui Group but because of their managerial independence are not considered members of the Mitsui Group.

The Mitsui Group is noted for social prestige of its top leadership and the web of social contacts throughout government and business that they maintain, what in China is known as guanxi. Nevertheless, as a keiretsu Mitsui has no wheres near the prestige, power and influence that was held by the Mitsui zaibatsu. The legacy of the old Mitsui that the Mitsui Group does carry is a concentration on the heavy industries which were the mainstay of industrialization in the Meiji period but are now dinosaurs in the 21st century.

The Other Keiretsu

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