Wedding Crasher

Corporate mergers in Japan are usually less than scintillating, proceeding as predictably as a Kabuki play. Executives of two companies—one strong, the other in dire financial straits—typically retreat behind closed doors to broker a deal, usually with little input from shareholders but plenty from the government. All too frequently, these secretive, stage-managed bailouts put a priority not on maximizing profits, increasing shareholder value or reforming busted business models but on preserving jobs (especially those of the managers themselves), promoting "stability" and maintaining the status quo.

But Japan's status quo isn't what it used to be. Three of the...

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