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Automation firm founder becomes Japan’s richest man

21 September, 2021

Takemitsu Takizaki, who founded the sensor and controls manufacturer Keyence in in 1974, has become Japan’s richest man with an estimated fortune worth $38.2bn – putting him ahead of the previous frontrunner Tadashi Yanai, who founded the clothing giant Uniqlo and has lost $9.7bn in the past year, leaving him with a mere $35.5bn.

The figures come from Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index which places Takizaki 36th in the global league of the wealthy.

Takizaki, who is 76, helped to invent the sensors on which his company was based. He stepped down as Keyence’s chairman in 2015, and is now honorary chairman. He keeps a low profile and there are few photographs of him.

Following Keyence’s recent addition to the Nikkei 225 stock index, the company has become Japan’s second most valuable firm, behind Toyota. Its value has almost doubled since the start of 2020 – thanks, in part, to an increasing demand for automation systems as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is also one of Japan’s most profitable companies with a profit margin of around 50%.

Keyence is Japan’s highest-paying employer with its 8,380 employees receiving an average of $160,000 in the year to March 2021. The company distributes part of its operating profit to its employees through a payout that they receive four times a year, in addition to monthly bonuses.

Keyence’s founder Takemitsu Takizaki keeps a low profile

Although Keyence is active in 46 countries, around 40% of its income still comes from within Japan. President and CEO Yu Nakata believes that there is considerable potential to expand the company outside of Japan using its direct sales business model.

Keyence claims that about 70% of its products are world-firsts. Its portfolio includes sensors, machine safety products, vision systems, PLCs, barcode readers, touchpanel displays, dimension measuring systems, dataloggers, stepper and servo motors, positioning systems, laser markers, microscopes and 3D printers.

Although Takizaki is Japan’s wealthiest individual, the Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index places him far behind the global leaders, Tesla’s Elon Musk on $204bn and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos on $201bn.

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