NEC announces exec shake-up in wonderfully sterile fashion

What better way to mark the end of one’s tenure as CEO of a company you have served for 43 years than with a table formatted in HTML?

That’s what Takashi Niino, outgoing chief executive of Japanese kit maker NEC, was treated to this week. Admittedly he’s not leaving the company altogether. He has been appointed vice chairman, effective – quite amusingly – on 1 April next year.

Under his leadership, NEC has been more aggressive in expanding into the 5G market outside Japan. For example, last month, it was announced that the company will play an unspecified role in the deployment of 5G in the UK, as part of a free trade deal.

It has also positioned itself firmly in the vanguard of O-RAN, working with operators and other suppliers on breakthroughs like multi-vendor carrier aggregation, and Vodafone UK’s first OpenRAN voice call, among others.

Even though Niino isn’t heading completely for the exit, he has just completed a four-year stint as CEO of a company he joined in March 1977 – two months before the first Star Wars film came out. And the number of warm words of respect and thanks from colleagues in the official announcement is…zero.

We checked the Japanese version, just in case NEC didn’t deign to translate reams of saccharine sentimentality into English, but no, nothing in Japanese. A quick check of NEC’s English-language social media channels didn’t turn up anything either.

Perhaps that explains why, in 2018, Niino spearheaded Project RISE, an initiative that brought in big changes to the employee code of conduct, and led efforts to recruit external candidates for executive roles.

Or, perhaps it’s just the way executive changes are announced in Japan.

For example, former NTT DoCoMo CEO Kaoru Kato, who was replaced in May 2016 by Kazuhiro Yoshizawa, was also given the HTML table treatment. Kato joined DoCoMo parent NTT in 1977, the same year Niino joined NEC.

Similarly to Niino, his replacement, current CFO Takayuki Morita, is an NEC veteran. He joined the company in April 1983 – seven months before this reporter was born – rising through the ranks to become finance chief in 2018.

Privately, Niino and Morita have more than likely received their due credit. But in the absence of any public pronouncements, here is one: Congratulations to both on your many years of service, and good luck for the future.

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