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For nearly seven years, the saga of Toshiba has unfolded with each new twist more extraordinary and damaging for the reputation of one of corporate Japan's most famous names.
The first stumble for Toshiba was a profit-padding scandal that laid bare a soured internal corporate culture. Then came the collapse of its US nuclear business, a glimpse into the abyss of bankruptcy and painful questions about the quality of the company's dealmaking history and business strategy.
Next was the controversial $18bn sale of Toshiba's memory chip business. Now renamed as Kioxia, it was bought by a consortium led by Bain Capital and remains Japan's biggest ever private equity deal.
A huge issuance of new shares in an emergency capital-raising exercise loaded Toshiba's shareholder register with feisty hedge funds and activists, more so than for any other major Japanese corporation. This has come back to bite Toshiba again and again. Particularly, after the company was forced by its investors to probe its own relationship with the government and alleged attempts to influence key AGM votes. There has never been much calm, but whatever stability there was vanished entirely in 2021.
Toshiba had received interest from private equity in a deal to take the whole company off the market and repair its many problems as a private company. That ultimately forced the then chief executive out. It set investors at odds with Toshiba management once again and led to the establishment of a strategic review committee. The conclusion of the committee, delivered last November, was to split Toshiba into three parts. But many investors hated the idea and the plan was swiftly abandoned.
Finally, in April 2022, Toshiba announced it was setting up a special committee to assess potential bids from private equity and other investors, opening the door for a landmark deal to take one of the country's biggest industrial names private.
The saga continues. But the story has already generated an unprecedented amount of attention on the way that large Japanese companies address long-standing obstacles to change.