The Wealth of Zaibatsu Owner Families: The Impact of Zaibatsu Busting in Occupied Japan

Steven Ericson


Contrary to widely accepted views, the former zaibatsu owner families, despite the drastic reduction in their enormous wealth, emerged from the U.S. Occupation with relatively sizable assets. The Holding Company Liquidation Commission, the Japanese agency that at the direction of Occupation Headquarters (GHQ) seized stocks that the zaibatsu families had held either directly or through their holding companies, worked to protect the families, especially by convincing GHQ to switch compensation from nonnegotiable bonds to cash. Furthermore, in the sale of stocks, the policy of giving purchase priority to zaibatsu company employees appears to have made it possible in some cases for the families to buy back shares and regain control over their former enterprises after 1952. As it turned out, the confiscatory measure was not so much the appropriation of the families’ assets under the GHQ-mandated dissolution of the combines as it was the Japanese government’s own punitive capital levy.

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