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Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2007

Beyond Nova


By PETER SIDELL
Special to The Japan Times

On Saturday, meetings were held across Japan for Nova Corp. instructors and staff, to provide information about the sponsor's plans for the future.

Given the short notice (about two days), there was an impressive turnout at the meeting I went to, one of two held at Nova's office in Shinjuku.

A large number of the around-400 attendees were in suits and ties in anticipation of interviews planned for after the session. However, G.communication decided not to go ahead with the interviews on the day, which suggests that the high head count had taken them by surprise.

First to speak was Noriaki Takahashi, one of the court-appointed trustees, who explained the decision to choose G.communication from about a dozen potential sponsors.

"We evaluated all the offers fairly," he explained, "and we came to the conclusion that the offer from G.communication was the best that was put forward."

Where other proposals had offered only limited re-employment, "all instructors and staff who want to be employed will be employed, following a short interview," said Takahashi.

A "Request for Employment" form handed out at the meeting states that "Even if there is no Nova school in your desired area of employment and you end up standing by at home, your salaries will be fully paid," and "your monthly income shall correspond to your final monthly income at Nova." (Later, one instructor asked what would happen if more people applied than could be employed, but this question was put back, and eventually went unanswered.)

Another reason the trustees chose G.communication was to protect the students, Takahashi explained.

"There was not one company that was prepared to pay the cancellation refunds," he said, referring to Nova's multibillion-yen debt.

Other companies offered only to waive their entrance fee, or to allow free study for a limited time, so the trustees felt "the offer to honor 100 percent of the lesson points at 25 percent cost was the best."

Next, he spoke about unpaid wages. "Salary payments from G.communication will start on the day of employment with G.communication," he said.

The outstanding salary payments were Nova's responsibility, but examining Nova's finances, the trustees had found "there was not even enough money to run the company for one day."

Apparently, Nova had a small fund set aside, which will be used to cover a small proportion of the outstanding wages. The rest will need to be claimed from the government after Nova is declared officially bankrupt, likely in around two weeks, though the large number of claimants means the process may well take up to six months. Those leaving Japan were asked simply to leave their contact details, as they wouldn't be able to rely on assistance from the Japanese embassies in their home countries.

The stage was then taken by Masaki Inayoshi, owner of G.communication, who explained his reasons for stepping in as sponsor.

"I wanted to accept this challenge," he said. "This was the main reason for making this decision."

He expressed surprise at the scale of the operation he has taken on, and quipped about the size of the hidden room in former Nova boss Nozomu Sahashi's Osaka suite, getting one of the few laughs of the afternoon.

So, are the dark clouds finally being cast aside? Perhaps not, especially for those leaving Japan, but the future is becoming at least a little clearer.



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