* Quits after less than two years in job
* Firm dismisses suggestions this could be Olympus-type
* Says opinions differed over products, management
* Leaves Nissan's Ghosn as only non-Japanese CEO
By James Topham and Nathan Layne
TOKYO, April 18 The American president and chief
executive of Nippon Sheet Glass Co Ltd quit the company
after less than two years in the post following "fundamental
disagreements" with the board over strategy, chairman Katsuji
Fujimoto said on Wednesday.
The resignation of Craig Naylor leaves Carlos Ghosn, the
chief executive of Nissan Motor Co, as the only
remaining non-Japanese CEO of a major Japanese manufacturer.
Howard Stringer stepped aside as CEO of Sony Corp this
Fujimoto dismissed suggestions in a press conference that
Naylor's departure heralded the sort of corporate scandal
sparked when Japan's Olympus Corp fired Briton Michael
Woodford in October.
"Our firm has nothing whatsoever like the situation that
happened at Olympus," Fujimoto told reporters.
He said Naylor was leaving after differences over priorities
for product development and management organisation. He didn't
elaborate, but the remarks were still unusually rare for
corporate Japan where companies provide little insight into
their inner workings.
"This is regrettable but we thank Craig for his efforts over
the past two years and wish him well in the future," Fujimoto
said. "Our priority now is to concentrate on the future
development of the company."
Nippon Sheet Glass, which expects to post its third net
annual loss in the last four years for the year that ended in
March, said company director Keiji Yoshikawa will replace
The firm has spread its business globally in recent years.
In 2006, it bought British glass maker Pilkington for about 2
billion pounds, and now gets a majority of its sales from
Indeed, an executive who has done business with Naylor said
the board of Nippon Sheet Glass was progressive by Japanese
"They are quite serious about corporate governance," said
the executive, who declined to be identified because of the
sensitivity of the issue. The board is "totally opposite of the
Olympus board," he said.
Naylor, a 36-year veteran of U.S. chemicals giant DuPont
, became CEO of Nippon Sheet Glass in June 2010. He was
the second non-Japanese executive to lead the 94-year-old
company after Briton Stuart Chambers, who resigned in 2009 after
just 15 months to spend more time with his family.
Naylor did not immediately respond to an emailed Reuters
request for comment.
Shares of Nippon Sheet Glass, valued at around $1.3 billion,
have slumped 81 percent since the global financial crisis hit,
and on Tuesday dropped to 113 yen, the lowest since at least
1984. The company announced Naylor's resignation after trading
on the Tokyo Stock Exchange had closed on Wednesday.
"The suddenness of this will be a surprise to investors and
should lead to a bit of selling of shares," said Katsuhiko
Ishibashi, an analyst at Deutsche Bank Equity Research.
"But I don't think the change in president will be negative
for the firm since nothing we've heard so far suggests any sort
of corporate scandal," Ishibashi said. "Of more interest is what
the firm plans to do about its falling profits."
In February, the company slashed its operating profit
forecast for the year to March 2012 to 4 billion yen ($49.5
million) from 25 billion yen and its net forecast to a loss of 2
billion yen from a profit of 15 billion yen.
Bankers have said the slide in the company's fortunes have
made it a prime candidate to raise fresh equity, but Chief
Financial Officer Mark Lyons said at the press conference the
company had no such plans, although it would consider all
options in the future.
Non-Japanese business leaders have long been rare in Japan,
where companies typically adopt a consensus-building culture
that can mean change is slow.
Naylor gave the impression he was facing resistance from
other officials at the firm to cutting jobs and others costs in
"This was no doubt a source of frustration to him," the
Japanese companies also tend to promote from within their
Japanese ranks and CEO pay tends to be lower than in other
developed markets. Naylor made 173 million yen ($2 million) in
the year to March 2011, the company's financial statement says.
Still, Nippon Sheet Glass was seen as more progressive than
many other Japanese companies.
The number two and three executives under Yoshikawa are
non-Japanese. The firm said on Wednesday that it appointed
German Clemens Miller as chief operating officer and said Lyons,
who is British, would stay as chief financial officer.
Four of the company's 11 board members are outside
directors, a relatively high proportion for Japan.
In addition, Nippon Sheet Glass had been unusually open
about why Naylor was quitting, said Jamie Allen, the secretary
general of the Asian Corporate Governance Association.
"The fact that the company has actually been quite honest
about why he is leaving, that is actually quite positive," he
said. "Quite often what you get from companies is simply these
people are leaving to pursue personal endeavours or for personal
Foreign CEOs have grabbed the headlines in Japan in recent
Woodford was sacked by Olympus after he questioned dubious
deals at the firm worth some $1.7 billion, sparking one of
Japan's biggest corporate scandals that prompted authorities in
Japan, Britain and the United States to open investigations and
soul searching in Tokyo over standards of corporate governance.
At electronics giant Sony, Kazuo Hirai replaced Stringer
earlier this year following four years of losses and criticism
that the company was losing its competitiveness against rivals
such as Apple Inc. Stringer remains chairman of the
firm. ($1=80.77 yen)