Wall Street Times

Masatoshi Ito, 7-Eleven empire head, died at 98

Image Commercially Licensed from: Unsplash
Image Commercially Licensed from: Unsplash

Masatoshi ItoMasatoshi Ito, a Japanese billionaire and entrepreneur, died last week at the age of 98.

Ito was instrumental in the globalization of 7-Eleven convenience shops.

His death brings an end to the narrative of one of Asia’s most successful retail entrepreneurs.

The news

Seven & I Holdings (SVNDF), the company that controls 7-Eleven, announced Matasoshi Ito’s death in a statement issued on Monday.

On March 10, they revealed that Ito had passed away due to old age.

“We would like to express our deepest gratitude for your kindness and friendship during his life and respectfully inform you of his passing,” the statement reads.

The business

Masatoshi Ito was a Japanese entrepreneur who transformed a US-based company into a global brand.

Because to his engagement with the firm, 7-Eleven stores have become a common sight throughout Asia, with a store within a few minutes’ walk in many cities.

Seven & I Holdings now has over 83,000 sites throughout the world.

Their reach includes 7-Eleven locations in 19 different states and countries.

In addition, the corporation owns the Speedway convenience store chain in the United States.

Lawson and FamilyMart, two Japanese-owned convenience store chains, are among Seven & I Holdings’ main competitors.

But so far, they do not have the same magnitude, scope, or worldwide reach as the 7-Eleven empire.

Ito’s influence

If Masatoshi Ito had not known the late management consultant Peter Drucker, his entrepreneurial potential would not have been recognized.

Ito was named one of the world’s top entrepreneurs and business creators by Drucker.

Masatoshi Ito admitted to visiting the United States in 1960 in an interview with The Journal of Japanese Trade and Industry in 1988.

He was taken aback by how rich everyone appeared, especially given that Japan was still recovering from the devastation of the Second World War.

“I became particularly conscious of the sheer size of America’s consumer society and the distribution techniques that made it all possible,” he said.

“It then occurred to me that people in different cultures still have basically the same desires, assuming that they are at the same stage of development.”

“[And] I thought that Japan’s distribution system would become more like America’s as the Japanese consumer society grew bigger.”

“Ever since, I have visited America every year without fail, learning as much as I possibly could about distribution,” Ito continued.

“There were even years when I made several trips to America. These business trips reinforced my belief that Japan and America are moving in the same general direction.”

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The chain’s origins

The corporation that is today known as 7-Eleven started as little.

Jefferson Green, often known as “Uncle Johnny,” started selling milk, bread, and eggs from the Southland Ice Company’s ice house in Dallas, Texas, in 1927.

He realized a need for the things to be available for clients in need, so he began selling them on weekends and evenings when grocery stores closed early.

Uncle Johnny’s plan has potential, according to Joe C. Thompson Jr., a co-founder of The Southland Company.

They began selling the same items at several ice-dock locations, laying the groundwork for convenience commerce.

The firm was known as 7-Eleven because of its longer hours of operation, and it was open from 7am to 11pm.

7-Eleven and Japanese Culture

Although it began in the United States, Masatoshi Ito associates 7-Eleven with Japanese convenience store culture.

Masatoshi Ito is the postwar entrepreneur who is mostly responsible for the chain’s success in selling anything from yogurt to ready-made meals and drugs.

He was able to do this through a succession of purchases and expansions between the 1970s and the 1990s.

Masatoshi Ito began his career in 1958, according to NHK, Japan’s national broadcaster.

He rose to the top of his family’s little Tokyo clothing shop.

Ito later started selling food and household goods.

He eventually renamed the company Ito Yokado and ran it like an American supermarket.

The first 7-Eleven opened in Tokyo, Japan, in 1974, as a result of a contract between Ito Yokado and the Southland Company, the company that owns 7-Eleven.

In March 1991, Masatoshi Ito’s business acquired a majority share in Southland.

According to NHK, Ito resigned as president of Ito Yokado to take responsibility for suspected payoffs to racketeers of business leaders.

Seven & I Holdings was formed in 2005 as the holding company for 7-Eleven Japan and Ito Yokado.

Ito was the company’s honorary chairman until his death.

Masatoshi Ito was quoted in an interview in 1988 as stating about 7-Eleven’s success:

“I am frequently asked if I succeeded because of hard work or because I was just lucky. The answer is some of both.”