When I wrote previously that the takeover of GEOS went smoothly, I remembered an old article sitting in my stack of stuff to do. It comes from JC-NET and was published on April 24, shortly after the bankruptcy was announced. As the title of this post says, the story suggests that there was a coup d'etat at GEOS that allowed for G.communication to swiftly move in and take over the company.
I don't know anything about JC-NET and certainly can't vouch for the accuracy of the article, but when GEOS went bust on April 21, I wondered if anything was going on behind the scences. The bankruptcy was incredbily smooth. G.communication and GEOS apparently reached a deal four days before the bankruptcy was announced. The president of G.communication initially stated he took over the company to protect the students. In a later interview, he said:
"People may be worried because of the experience with Nova. In Nova's case, we took over some of their schools awhile after the company went bankrupt and we had to start in a situation where more than 1,000 teachers didn't have places to work," Sugimoto said.
"This time, we raised our hand (to rescue Geos) at an early time," he said. "If it was a week later, it would have been more chaotic."
So just how early did Sugimoto "raise his hand?" The bankruptcy has been so smooth it's virtually a non-event in the news. The JC-NET article, however, suggests that there was a lot of maneuvering behind the scenes and that Kusunoki was essentially stabbed in the back by a nephew. Here's a summary of that article.
The JC-NET article starts off with the observation that Kusunoki wasn't present at the press conference announcing GEOS' bankruptcy and that this was odd, especially when you consider that he didn't agree to the bankruptcy in the first place. Instead, leading the coup d'etat was a director named Tabuchi.
The bankruptcy was filed with the Tokyo District Court by Hitomi Suhara and two other directors. Sitting beside Suhara at the press conference was Tabuchi.
However, JC-NET notes that Tabuchi may in fact be Kusunoki's nephew, who happens to have been in charge of operations in the Chubu area, G.education's home turf. So here's the plot: Worried about GEOS's stability, Tabuchi approaches G.communication and offers to sell the company to them. We already know that an agreement was signed on April 16th. The offer to sell, however, may have been made much further in advance of the April 16 signing. G.communication may have decided to sign on the 16th after having reviewed information about GEOS' schools and sorting the schools into the ones it would keep and the ones it would close. A source says this is why GEOS' directors (Suhara and Tabuchi) could speak with such clarity about GEOS's schools during the press conference in the wake of the bankruptcy.
JC-NET believes that Tabuchi and other kept Kusunoki out of the loop. Some reports had Kusunoki considering selling GEOS to another large eikaiwa school other that G.communication. At the same time, two directors approached G.communication. JC-NET says that Tabuchi and Suhara took files on each school to G.communication without telling GEOS's board of directors. In a takeover, the articles of incorporation have to be reviewed, but taking documents without the knowledge of the board would appear to be a breach of confidentiality. JC-NET's source says that Tabuchi did this to save his own skin, but this doesn't make much sense. The backroom dealings aside, there's no way G.communication would go public and employ either Tabuchi or Suhara. If this is true, then it appears that Kusunoki may have been stabbed in the back by his nephew.
As is known from press releases, GEOS filed for bankruptcy on March 16 [sic. Mistake in the report? Should be April 16] and signed an agreement with G.education to take over GEOS, its kodomo schools, and e-GEOS businesses. On April 23, G.education reopened 170 GEOS schools and 223 kodomo classrooms while shutting down 100 other schools. Students affected by the closures were given the option of transferring to the nearest GEOS or Nova school, or taking Ocha no ma ryuugaku lessons online at a 75% discount.
G.communication, the parent company of G.education, held a press conference on April 21, but Kusunoki was not in attendance. According to a JNN interview, Kusunoki maintains that he was looking to sell the company to another school when his directors betrayed him. "It's like a coup d'etat," he said.
Comment: As I said at the outset, I don't know what to make of the allegation that Tabuchi is related to Kusunoki or if there's any truth to the story at all. If it's true, the takeover of GEOS is more a fait accompli on G.communication's part than a coup within GEOS.