TOKYO (Jan. 11, 2001)—Bridgestone Corp. Chairman, President and CEO Yoichiro Kaizaki will step down from his post after a shareholder meeting in March.
Bridgestone Director Shigeo Watanabe has been appointed Mr. Kaizaki´s successor. Mr. Kaizaki will remain with the Japanese tire maker as a full-time adviser.
While no official reason was given for Mr. Kaizaki´s departure, he is the second top Bridgestone official to resign in the wake of the 6.5-million Firestone tire recall that began Aug. 9. Masatoshi Ono, CEO of U.S. subsidiary Bridgestone/Firestone Inc., stepped down Oct. 10 and returned to Japan, succeeded in the job by John T. Lampe.
Since the recall began, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has attributed 148 deaths and more than 500 injuries to the failure of Firestone tires. Firestone is expected to lose an estimated $500 million this year, and Bridgestone stock has fallen to nine-year lows since the recall began. An estimated 200 lawsuits have been filed related to the tire failures.
In a prepared statement, Mr. Lampe praised Mr. Kaizaki as a "mentor and a friend to me and to many of us here at Bridgestone/Firestone...It was his vision that launched Bridgestone and Bridgestone/Firestone on an unprecedented growth and globalization program that has solidified our company´s position as a world leader in rubber and tire design, manufacturing and marketing."
Mr. Lampe also described Mr. Watanabe as a "strong friend of Bridgestone/Firestone," having served the company at the LaVergne, Tenn. plant and later as part of its senior management team.