Business: The Rising Son-in-Law

Japan's Konosuke Matsushita, a peasant's son, built one of the world's largest companies by following his instincts. One of the shrewdest hunches came in 1940, when an aristocratic young banker caught Matsushita's eye. The gregarious businessman was so impressed with Masaharu Hirata that he not only arranged for him to marry his only daughter but also adopted him as a son.

The new Matsushita joined the family firm, Matsushita Electric Industrial Company, and began studying shacho-gaku (the art of presidency). Now the elder Matsushita, 78, is stepping down after 55 years as chief executive....

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