ENEOS Chairman Resigns After Sexual Assault! | FRIDAY DIGITAL

ENEOS Chairman Resigns After Sexual Assault!

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Sugimori encourages Junichi Tazawa (left) of the Red Sox, who was with ENEOS’ predecessor, Nippon Oil Corporation, in September 2015 (Image: Kyodo News) (Kyodo News)

For personal reasons.

Tsutomu Sugimori, 66, former chairman of ENEOS Holdings, the largest petroleum wholesaler in Japan, resigned suddenly on August 12 without a clear explanation. Although he had just been reappointed at the general shareholders’ meeting in June, he also resigned as vice chairman of the Keidanren’s Board of Councilors and as president of the Petroleum Association of Japan. There was much speculation in the business community as to the reason for his resignation. The truth will be revealed in the September 29 issue of Shukan Shincho.

It was a sexual assault on a woman. According to the Shukan Shincho, on July 1, at a high-class club in Naha City, Okinawa Prefecture, he allegedly put his hands inside the dress of a hostess in her 30s, fumbled in her underwear, and squeezed her breasts. He also put his hands on the woman’s shoulders and forced her to kiss him. He forced her to remove her dress and stripped her naked.

“Sugimori said, “It’s normal in Ginza,” “Just let me touch your nipples,” and so on. The woman, who resisted, is said to have suffered a broken rib and other injuries that will take two weeks to heal. The woman reportedly filed a damage report demanding an apology and medical expenses from Sugimori,” said a reporter from the society section of a national newspaper.

Upon being contacted by the woman’s lawyer, ENEOS conducted an investigation. The report says that ENEOS asked Sugimori to step down from his position as chairman of the company. In response to an interview by Shukan Shincho, the ENEOS public relations department did not disclose the reason for the resignation, saying, “We strictly refrained from sending out information that might affect the privacy of (the female victim).

Drinking with All Employees

In September 2020, ENEOS agreed with then Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi to collaborate on decarbonization (Image: Kyodo News)

Sugimori was forced to resign as a result of his outlandish sexual harassment. In the course of our interviews, we uncovered a surprising side of Sugimori. Mr. Takashi Matsuzaki, an economics journalist familiar with the petroleum industry, said, “Mr. Sugimori is a former oil company owner in Ishikawa Prefecture.”

Mr. Sugimori is a graduate of one of the most prestigious schools in Ishikawa Prefecture. He initially wanted to go to medical school, but he was not good at physics, so he switched to liberal arts. His father recommended him to study at Hitotsubashi University’s Faculty of Commerce, saying, ‘If you want to study the humanities, Hitotsubashi is the place to go.’

Until high school, he had few opportunities to interact with women and was very timid. Perhaps in an effort to have opportunities to interact with women, he joined a fraternity ball at the university, where there were many female students. At the time, the energy transition from coal to oil was underway, and he saw great potential for the future, so in 1979 he joined Nippon Oil Corporation, the predecessor of ENEOS.

It seems that his way of working was the very essence of the “furious businessman” of the Showa era. Mr. Matsuzaki continues.

“He visited gas stations all over the country, drinking and playing mahjong with the owners until dawn. Sometimes they disagreed with each other and got into big fights. There is an anecdote that when he was in the human resources department at the head office, he drank with all 3,000 or so employees and learned their faces, names, and personalities. He also devoted his days off to work, golfing and fishing with business partners.”

Not-so-good stories are said to have been passed down to him.

The oil industry is at a crossroads. Carbon dioxide emissions are being curbed and electric cars are becoming the norm. Mr. Sugimori was always urging his employees to change their mindset and come up with new business ideas. The atmosphere in the company was tense.

“On the other hand, after he became a board member, his drinking habits were quite bad. He drank quickly, and when drunk, his attitude became loud and irreverent. Although he ordered his employees to have high ethical standards as members of society, there had been concerns about his arrogant behavior at the bar for some time,” Matsuzaki said.

The resignation of Mr. Sugimori has turned the concerns of those around him into reality. Mr. Sugimori is now guilty of a crime that cannot be undone.

As a top executive, he was known as a “hard-nosed” man (Image: Kyodo News)
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