Asia: Cerberus enters the Lions’ den

Peter McGill
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Japan’s Seibu Holdings and US private equity house Cerberus are at each other’s throats. Cerberus claims that it can improve Seibu’s management; Seibu’s other stakeholders say Cerberus is a vulture fund intent on asset stripping.

When a former vice-president of the most powerful country on earth is forced to appear on Japanese TV to profess his allegiance to a Japanese baseball team and support for minor railway lines out of Tokyo, trouble is surely afoot.

"We’re not a vulture," Dan Quayle assured public broadcaster NHK. "I have a Seibu Lions T-shirt. I have a Seibu Lions baseball cap. I am a very strong supporter of the Seibu Lions. We are not interested, and we are opposed, to selling the Seibu Lions. Furthermore, we are opposed to closing the railroad lines."

After a gaffe-prone term as US vice-president under George Bush Sr, Quayle landed a job as chairman of the global investments division of Cerberus, a private equity house with more than $20 billion under management. In 2006, Cerberus invested ¥94 billion ($913 million) in Seibu Holdings, successor to a sprawling empire of hotels,...