Koji Nishigaki

President, NEC Corp.

Koji Nishigaki is shaking things up, Japanese-style. The NEC Corp. (NIPNY ) president has set ambitious goals--and met them--since becoming the first non-engineer to run the sprawling electronics giant in March, 1999. Consider a short list of his feats: He has slashed $5.7 billion in debt; closed a floundering U.S. personal-computer operation; halved the number of board members, to 16; and joined with archrival Hitachi Ltd. (HIT ) to develop memory chips.

That helped NEC book a $464 million profit in fiscal year 2000, on sales of $44 billion, just two years after the company lost a record $1.3 billion. "The results represent our innovative restructuring thus far," says Nishigaki. Outside analysts agree that the 63-year old Nishigaki is a born leader willing to buck the consensus. A former Tokyo University quarterback--he started the school's American-style football team in the 1950s--he swept aside the ineffective restructuring program put in place by his predecessors and substituted his own.

Nishigaki's three-year plan calls for trimming 10% of NEC's 150,000-person workforce, spending $4.9 billion on overseas acquisitions, tripling Internet-related revenue by March, 2002, and listing the company on the New York Stock Exchange this year. NEC is also outsourcing more of its chip and computer manufacturing to boost profit margins, now double those of competitors Fujitsu Ltd. (FJTSY ) and Toshiba Corp.

Nishigaki boasts that NEC--unlike traditional Japanese companies--now puts profits and financial targets ahead of sales and market share. He meets regularly with investors and the media to explain how his moves are enhancing shareholder value. And unlike most blue-suited Japanese execs, Nishigaki is putting a human face on his work. He pens a weekly column for the company's Web site and responds to e-mail personally.

Despite results so far, Nishigaki warns about "more pain ahead." Tough talk, but solid results back it up.

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