Casino Operator Universal Entertainment Loses President over Payment Scandal

Following a high-profile legal battle, the Tokyo High Court has found Universal Entertainment Corp. President Jun Fujimoto responsible for the unauthorized transfer of nearly $43.5 million, a serious matter in corporate governance. As a result, he has announced his resignation from his executive roles with the casino operator.

The Okada Manila casino resort in the Philippines. (Source: Okada Manila)

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The drama is just one of many Universal, which owns the Okada Manila in the Philippines and other casinos, has been struggling to put behind it for close to a decade. As a result of the transfer of the funds, which Fujimoto allegedly never received clearance for, shareholders had accused him of fiduciary negligence and other violations of his position and had pushed to force him out several years ago.

Related: Universal Entertainment Calls Off US Listing Plans

A lower court, however, ruled against them almost two years ago and Fujimoto was able to retain his positions. The Tokyo High Court's decision, which was issued at the end of last week, should put a definitive end to the protracted legal battle.

Universal Entertainment Corp is still navigating the aftermath of this event. Its focus will likely shift to reinforcing corporate governance structures and restoring stakeholder confidence.

The company has already announced the appointment of Hajime Tokuda as the new president and representative director, a step towards completing the latest transition.

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Fujimoto at Center Of Hostile Takeover

The relationship between Kazuo Okada, the founder of Universal, and Fujimoto, soured dramatically in May 2019. Okada accused Fujimoto, then a director, of being part of a conspiracy to oust him from Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment Inc. (TRLEI). TRLEI is a crucial subsidiary of Universal, as it controls the lucrative Okada Manila. Taking control of TRLEI would essentially mean controlling a significant portion of the company's revenue stream.

This accusation wasn't born in a vacuum. Two years prior, in June 2017, Okada was abruptly removed from his position as chairman of Universal itself. The same month, he was also voted out of his role at TRLEI. This swift removal from both leadership positions suggests a coordinated effort to sideline Okada within the company he founded.

The reasons behind this falling out remain murky. Okada has claimed innocence and maintains he was the victim of a carefully orchestrated plot. Fujimoto, on the other hand, has accused Okada's group of withholding information and misrepresenting themselves in legal proceedings.

The dispute between Okada and Fujimoto spilled over into a public spectacle. Okada Manila itself became a battleground, with Okada's representatives allegedly attempting to take control of the resort with a small militia in May 2022. This takeover attempt, however, was short-lived, as the Philippines gaming regulator, PAGCOR, and a court intervened and reinstated the board backed by Fujimoto.


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