Scandal-plagued top talent agency Johnny & Associates has unveiled a plan it hopes will blunt public criticism. The question now is whether its reform plan will prove sufficiently persuasive to rehabilitate the company in the public eye.
Plagued by the issue of sexual assaults perpetrated by its founder, Johnny & Associates Inc has changed its name to Smile-Up. The late Johnny Kitagawa's talent agency will concentrate solely on providing compensation to victims, it says. After disbursing those payments, the newly renamed company is slated to go out of business.
Known as "Johnny's," the talent management business will be transferred to a different new company. Its name is to be chosen from suggestions provided by fan clubs. Former company president Julie Keiko Fujishima, the founder's niece, will concentrate on compensation-related activities at Smile-Up. Under the plan, she will not invest in or be involved with the new talent company.
Second Time Around
New company president Noriyuki Higashiyama announced these changes on October 2. That was at the second press conference held by company management. At an earlier press conference, company executives had indicated that they had no intention of changing the company name.
However, that position was not well received by the public. Furthermore, there was considerable blowback from sponsors and other parties after that press conference. That was what forced the change in plan. Higashiyama himself expressed regret that they had not announced the new approach at the first press conference. He admitted, "I myself feel that we were just delaying coming to grips with everything."
In a personal message from Julie Keiko Fujishima read at the press conference, she said in part, "I want to remove all traces of Johnny Kitagawa from this world."
Her words reflect strong remorse and determination.
However, too many unknowns remain regarding the specifics of the compensation activities set to begin in November. Even more is unknown about corporate governance for the new company that will be responsible for talent management operations.
From here onward, the public will also demand a high degree of transparency. Management must share with society any progress made, including regarding the compensation of victims, during the rebuilding process.
Final judgment on the company's resolve will have to await evaluation of that process.
What Management and the Media Must Do
The issues surrounding the company are not limited to the sexual offenses committed by Johnny Kitagawa himself. Rather, there have also been systemic problems related to the strong-armed methods used to conceal the truth about his predatory treatment of young men.
Higashiyama stated that the new company would update and improve the existing management training operations.
Does that comment reflect any real remorse? It was a highly questionable statement to make.
Many of the celebrities transitioning to the new company have their own large fan base. Therefore, in order to protect its talents and fans, the company should prioritize a smooth implementation of the compensation process and complete its extrication from past evils. It also needs to make efforts to make society aware of these changes.
Furthermore, going forward, it will be the media's responsibility to pay attention to whether Smile-Up really does wind up the old company. Moreover, it must closely follow and report on exactly how the new company is managed.
- Johnny & Associates to Take New Name, Set Up New Company
- EDITORIAL | Johnny & Associates: Don't Let Family Ties Impede Reforms
- Johnny Kitagawa: Uncover the Truth About the Emperor of Entertainment
(Read the editorial in Japanese.)
Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun