Brokerage executive linked to Livedoor deals found dead

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Hideaki Noguchi, 38, a close aide to Livedoor president Takafumi Horie was found bleeding in a hotel bed with cuts to his wrists on Wednesday in Naha, the capital of the southern prefecture of Okinawa. He was later confirmed dead and the police suspect that he committed suicide. Hideo Sawada, the president of HS Securities, told reporters in Tokyo that Noguchi's family had identified the body.

Noguchi was a board member at Japan M&A Management Co., a unit of H.S. Securities Co. The firm was raided by prosecutors earlier this week in connection with fraudulent practices at Livedoor, according to the Kyodo News agency. He was a graduate of Tokyo's Meiji University, and joined Livedoor in 2000. He had previously worked at Kokusai Securities Co. as an adviser in financing. Livedoor was publicly listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in April 2000. Noguchi then set up the investment unit Capitalista Co., which merged with HS Securities.

News of the suicide is being featured in the Japanese media in connection with what is being termed the "Livedoor Shock". The problems at Livedoor have led to the loss of a third of its $6.3-billion value in the stock market. Livedoor maintains that its own investigation reveal that it did not violate any securities laws.

Some view the affair as an outcome of the larger struggle between competing business cultures in Japan. Takafumi Horie is part of a new generation of Japanese entrepreneurs with little patience for the customs of a traditionally cautious business culture. Horie has shown an appetite for publicity through his internet blogs and appearances on TV shows while living a rock star lifestyle that includes private jets and actress girlfriends.

Horie is also credited with popularizing stock trading among individual investors. The practice of day trading is relatively new in Japan. The Nikkei index was up about 40% last year, its best performance since 1986.