Hello Kitty gets new boss after 60 years

Hello Kitty gets new boss after 60 years

June 13, 2020

The founder of the firm behind Hello Kitty is stepping down at the age of 92 and handing the reins to his grandson, the first change in leadership in the company’s six-decade history.

Tokyo-based Sanrio, which created the ubiquitous character in 1974, announced on Friday that Shintaro Tsuji would retire as president and pass control of the company to its senior managing director, Tomokuni Tsuji.

Tomokuni happens to share his 1 November birthday with Hello Kitty, but at 31 he is 14 years younger. He will become the youngest CEO of a firm listed on Tokyo’s Topix index.

Shintaro’s son Kunihiko died of heart failure in 2013.

According to the firm’s official history, Shintaro created the forerunner to Sanrio, Yamanashi Silk Center Co Ltd, in 1960. It changed its name to Sanrio in 1973 and created its first character goods a year later, using Hello Kitty and the duo Jimmy and Patty.

The first Hello Kitty item, a coin purse, was merchandised in 1975 and the character has since adorned everything from handbags to bullet trains. Hello Kitty even has its own theme park.

To fans’ surprise, Sanrio said in 2014 that the character was not actually a cat but a “happy little girl”, prompting internet users to retort: “But she’s got whiskers!”

The change at the top comes at a difficult time for Sanrio. The business has been in decline many years and has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

According to its results published on Friday, annual net profits plunged by 95% in the 2019/2020 fiscal year. Sales were down 6.5% at ¥55.2bn (£410m).

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