Goldman Sachs Japan president departs in shake-up

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The president of Goldman Sachs Japan has resigned and will step down with immediate effect, bringing to an end the career of one of the biggest figures in Tokyo’s financial industry.

The surprise departure of Masanori Mochida, who is around 70, follows a 38-year career at Goldman, during which the US investment bank dramatically raised its profile in Japan and became involved in many of the country’s highest-profile deals.

People close to Goldman said that Mochida, who was originally appointed by then chief executive Hank Paulson to the top job in Tokyo in 2001, was on track to retire from the bank at some point in 2024 but over the past few days the decision had been made to speed up that process.

The acceleration of Mochida’s departure schedule, said two sources close to Goldman, reflects rising internal concern that the bank needs fresh leadership in Tokyo as it competes for deals with increasingly aggressive rivals such as Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan. 

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The sense of urgency, said Goldman bankers, has grown in recent months as corporate Japan becomes an increasingly rich market for management buyouts, domestic consolidation and other M&A deals. At the same time, global investors are paying increasing attention to Japan’s equity markets after a long hiatus of interest.

The total value of M&A deals involving Japanese companies grew 14 per cent to $111bn in the first nine months of 2023, compared with the same period last year, according to data compiled by LSEG.

In recent years, Goldman in Japan has also suffered a significant outflow of talent. Several key figures left the Tokyo office in 2018 to join SoftBank and many others have been lured away to work in Japan’s growing pool of technology start-ups.

Some people close to the brokerage had hoped that Mochida’s retirement would pave the way for a new generation of bankers to take charge and re-energise the business at a time when Japan has emerged as one of the hottest markets as investors shift their money away from China. 

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Under Mochida, Goldman became centrally involved in the financial rescue of Toshiba, and, at one point in the early 2000s, turned the bank into one of Japan’s biggest owners of golf courses.

In Japan in the 1980s, said Mochida in a blog post celebrating his 35th year at the bank, “the financial industry was dominated by local players. US banks had made some inroads into the market. However, they were regarded very much as outsiders run by ex-pat bankers and with limited local autonomy. I saw an opportunity for Goldman Sachs.”

Under Mochida, Goldman dramatically expanded its presence in Japan through its involvement in some of the country’s biggest deals including the $22.5bn merger between Nippon Steel and its rival Sumitomo Metal Industries in 2012 and Toshiba’s $18bn sale of its memory chip business to a consortium led by Bain Capital in 2017. 

A spokesman for Goldman declined to comment.