Fuji Photo Film Company
Born: October 28, 1925, in Japan.
Education: Tokyo University.
Family: Sokichi Ohnishi and Mitsu (maiden name unknown); married Yaeko Yui, 1951; children: two.
Career: Fuji Photo Film Company, 1948–1964, employee; 1964–1968, executive vice president of U.S. subsidiary; 1968–1976, manager of export-sales division; 1976–1980, managing director, then senior managing director; 1980–1996, president; 1996–2003, chairman and CEO; 2003–, chairman.
Awards: Honorary Doctorate, Clemson University; Hall of Fame, International Photographic Council; Cruzeiro do Sol, Order of Orange-Nassau; and Leadership Award, National Association of Photographic Manufacturers in the United States.
Address: Fuji Photo Film Company, 26-30, Nishiazabu 2-Chome, Minato-Ku, Tokyo 106-8620, Japan; http://www.fujifilm.co.jp.
■ Minoru Ohnishi first joined the Fuji Photo Film Company in 1948. During his long, successful career with Fuji, Ohnishi rose through a variety of managerial positions in both the United States and Japan. In 1980 he became president of Fuji Photo Film and was eventually credited with turning the company into a global leader in the photography and imaging industry. Ohnishi was born on October 28, 1925, in Hyogo, Japan. He graduated from the School of Economics at Tokyo University. After beginning his career with Fuji in 1948, he married Yaeko Yui in 1951. They had two sons.
Ohnishi's first major career challenge came in 1964 when he was chosen to be the executive vice president of Fuji's first U.S. branch in the Empire State Building in New York City
where he was one of only six employees. During the 1960s Eastman Kodak Company dominated the American photography market; Ohnishi was credited with helping to open that market to Fuji. His time in America was formatively important, as the knowledge he gained with regard to Eastman Kodak and American politics and economics proved very beneficial when he moved up the corporate ladder.
One situation in which the knowledge gained by Ohnishi proved particularly helpful was in the court case Eastman Kodak filed against Fuji through the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1993. Ohnishi mounted a blunt, impassioned criticism of Kodak's contentions that Fuji, in cooperation with the Japanese government, had set up unfair import policies to ensure Fuji's near monopoly of the Japanese film market. Although Ohnishi's public rebuke of Kodak was seen by many as un-Japanese in its forcefulness, he was ultimately vindicated when the WTO ruled that Fuji had committed no infractions, thus allowing Fuji to maintain a strong lead in its domestic Japanese market.
In 1980, after being promoted through the managerial ranks of Fuji—he served as manager of the export-sales division from 1968 to 1976 and also as director, then managing director, then senior managing director between 1972 and 1980—at age 55 Ohnishi was appointed president of Fuji, as which he implemented a visionary strategy to make the company a global force while expanding its line of products and services. During Ohnishi's first year Fuji saw unprecedented growth, including a 400 percent increase in consolidated sales over the prior year.
One of Ohnishi's greatest successes was his recognition—long before many other corporate leaders—of the impending industry shift to digital photography at the end of the 20th century. Ohnishi pursued a somewhat dangerous strategy, furthering the market for digital photography and thus potentially decreasing the market for Fuji's best-known product: film. While many of his colleagues disagreed with his emphasis on digital imaging—instead advocating a loyal reliance to the company's established lines of photosensitive products—Ohnishi was steadfast and funneled billions of dollars into the research and design of digital cameras, analog-to-digital hybrids, and imaging technologies.
During his presidency Fuji successfully repositioned itself as a digital—not just film-based—company and eventually grew to be considered one of the major forces in digital photography and imaging. One of the groundbreaking technologies that emerged from the company's research was the Super CCD, a small image-capturing chip employing octagonal pixels, which provided a dramatic increase in resolution over standard rectangular pixels and decreased the overall size of devices.
From 1996 to 2003 Ohnishi served as chairman and chief executive officer of Fuji Photo Film Company. During his 23 years of leadership as president and then as CEO, Fuji continously experienced laudable growth and profitability; the company's growth was especially impressive when measured against Japan's economic depression and the increased tax rates of the late 1990s. By 2003 Fuji had secured 70 percent of the Japanese film market and had made dramatic gains in shares in a variety of international markets—most notably Europe, the United States, Brazil, and China. Ohnishi stimulated Fuji's necessary evolution from a film- and camera-based company into a holistic information-management and imaging company.
Indeed, in Fuji's 1998 shareholders report Ohnishi called his general strategy an Imaging and Information (I&I) philosophy. He stated that the I&I philosophy "presents us with two challenges: that of continuing to improve our image-capturing, recording, and reproductions systems, and that of creating systems that combine electronic imaging and computer technologies, facilitating the quick and easy manipulation, transmission, and utilization of high-quality images in a range of applications" (1998).
From 1980 to 2003 Ohnishi made a variety of large-scale strategic moves in order to realize what he perceived to be Fuji's full potential, initiating a number of key acquisitions and ventures. In 1987 he established Fuji Magnetic in Germany; in 1988 Fuji Photo Film in South Carolina; in 1990 Fujifilm Microdevices Company; in 1995 Fujifilm Imaging Systems in China; in 1996 Fujifilm Electronic Imaging in England; and in 1997 Eurocolor Photofinishing in Germany. Under his direction Fuji bought a majority share in Fuji Xerox Company, furthering Fuji's ability to tap the document-management market. In 2002 Fuji outbid Kodak to acquire Jusphoto Company, one of Japan's leading film-processing chains, further solidifying Fuji's stronghold in its domestic market.
By 2003 Ohnishi had successfully manifested his transformative vision. Fuji boasted a diverse, high-tech product line that enabled image production, dissemination, and management for individual, scientific, and corporate ends. In addition to traditional photosensitive materials Fuji produced digital cameras, digital printers, minilab systems for the developing of film and paper, medical-imaging products, motion-picture film, software, and nanotechnologies. Ohnishi's leadership facilitated and necessitated innovation, research, globalization, and efficiency, resulting in a substantial increase in profits—between 1980 and 2003 Fuji more than quadrupled yearly sales; between 1997 and 2004 productivity increased by 50 percent; and by 2004 Fuji employed over 70,000 people worldwide. During his tenure Ohnishi also showed a commitment to environmental protection. The International Organization of Standardization certified many of Fuji's production facilities around the world, including all four of its Japanese facilities, as environmentally sound.
In 2003 Ohnishi retired as Fuji's CEO and retained the job of chairman of the board of directors, a nonvoting position. While the position was viewed by many as honorary, Ohnishi hoped to maintain some influence with upper-level management while leaving all other aspects of Fuji's production and marketing to succeeding executives. At the time of Ohnishi's stepping down Fuji had grown to be the world's second-largest producer of photographic film and supplies. Despite the company's position and growth Ohnishi's detractors believed that he spent too much of the company's profits on research and design at the expense of shareholder returns.
In 199I Ohnishi was awarded an honorary doctoral degree from Clemson University in recognition of his business skills and in appreciation for his selecting South Carolina as the site for one of Fuji's film-production plants. In 2004 Ohnishi's notable contributions to the photographic industry were recognized by the International Photographic Council when he was inducted in to the organization's hall of fame. Ohnishi served as the chairman of the Photographic Society of Japan and as the president of the Tokyo chapter of the Photosensitized Materials Manufacturers Association of Japan. He was awarded the Cruzeiro do Sol, the Order of Orange-Nassau, and the Leadership Award from the National Association of Photographic Manufacturers in the United States.
See also entry on Fuji Photo Film Co., Ltd. in International Directory of Company Histories .
Kunnii, Irene M., "Fuji: Beyond Film," BusinessWeek , November 22, 1999.
Ohnishi, Minoru, and Masayuki Muneyuki. "A Message from the Chairman and President," Fuji Photo Film Company 1998 Shareholders Report , July 1998, http://home.fujifilm.com/info/share/repo_98.html .