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Asia: Cerberus enters the Lions’ den

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."

Dan Quayle, chairman of the global investments division of Cerberus, a private equity house with more than $20 billion under management
Dan Quayle, chairman of the global investments division of Cerberus, a private equity house with more than $20 billion under management

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, resorts and railways brought to its knees by hubris and post-bubble malaise, as well as fraud committed by a man who for several years was ranked by Forbes as the wealthiest person alive, Yoshiaki Tsutsumi.

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