Former Panasonic president Masaharu Matsushita dies, aged 99

The death has been announced of Masaharu Matsushita, honorary chairman of Panasonic and former president of its predecessor company, which bore his family name. He was 99.

Seen above visiting a TV factory in 1961, when he became president, he succeeded founder Konosuke Matsushita, his father-in-law, and led Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. during one of its major periods of expansion into a global brand, serving in the role for 16 years.

He died earlier today at Matsushita Memorial Hospital, Osaka, which was also established by company founder Konosuke Matsushita.

Born Masaharu Hirata, the son of an artist, he studied law at what later became the University of Tokyo, graduating in 1935. He worked for Mitsui Bank, but moved to Matsushita after marrying the daughter of the founder. As sometimes happens in Japan, he took his wife's family name, rather than vice versa.

In 1961 Konosuke Matsushita, who founded the company in 1918, announced his resignation as president, saying that 'With everyone's cooperation, last year we achieved the aims of our five-year plan, and celebrated my 65th birthday. I have decided that the time is right for me to resign as president, and in the position of chairman of the board, take a back-seat, so to speak, in the company's management.

'My retirement comes at a turning point in the development of the company, but I believe that our company will make great strides under its new management."

Konosuke (seen left in the picture above) became executive adviser to the company, Artaro Takahashi (centre) chairman and Masaharu (right) president. In 1977 Masaharu Matsushita became chairman of the company, replacing Takahashi, and in 2000 changed role to that of honorary chairman, a position he held until his death.

Matsushita is survived by his wife, Sachiko, and his son Masayuki. As Panasonic Vice Chairman, Masayuki Matsushita is only member of the founding family still on the board.

Current Chairman Fumio Ohtsubo, until June President of the company, said he had often discussed the company's beginnings with Masaharu Matshushita: 'I honour from the bottom of my heart his achievements in steering our company toward momentous growth.'

Where next for Panasonic? Read Andrew Everard's blog

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Andrew has written about audio and video products for the past 20+ years, and been a consumer journalist for more than 30 years, starting his career on camera magazines. Andrew has contributed to titles including What Hi-Fi?, GramophoneJazzwise and Hi-Fi CriticHi-Fi News & Record Review and Hi-Fi Choice. I’ve also written for a number of non-specialist and overseas magazines.