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Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011

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Power editor: Surrounded by reporters, Tsuneo Watanabe, chairman and chief editor of the Yomiuri Shimbun, leaves a Tokyo hotel Monday evening. KYODO PHOTOS

Fired leader threatens to sue Yomiuri group over chairman's meddling

Giants ex-GM Kiyotake tells his side of the story

Staff writer

Former Yomiuri Giants General Manager Hidetoshi Kiyotake said Friday he is ready to take legal action against the Yomiuri Shimbun group for "illegally" and "unjustly" firing him last week after he publicly criticized group Chairman Tsuneo Watanabe for meddling in the team's hiring affairs.

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Hidetoshi Kiyotake

Specifics of the legal action, such as whether it will allege defamation or improper dismissal, have yet to be decided, but the lawsuit is due to be filed next month, Kiyotake's lawyer said during a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan.

The Giants fired Kiyotake, 61, on Nov. 18, saying his actions were inappropriate because he was told not to go to the press by other executives inside the Yomiuri group and disclosed sensitive information on personnel matters.

The team is solely owned by The Yomiuri Shimbun Holdings, which is chaired by Watanabe and also owns the Yomiuri Shimbun, the nation's top newspaper.

Kiyotake's press conference on Nov. 11 criticized Watanabe, who is also the club chairman, for single-handedly trying to change the ballclub's decision to retain Kaoru Okazaki as head coach.

Kiyotake called Watanabe's meddling a "serious violation of compliance."

"I was a reporter of the social news department of the Yomiuri Shimbun. And in those days, I attacked the noncompliance of other companies and strongly criticized the leaders of the companies who violated compliance," Kiyotake said at the FCCJ Friday.

"Therefore, if I had condoned this serious noncompliance that would betray the fans, players, coaches, field managers and honest employees in order to save myself, it would have been an immoral act," said Kiyotake, who has represented the Giants since 2004.

Kiyotake explained what led him to hold the surprise press conference on Nov. 11.

On Oct. 20, he and then Giants owner Tsunekazu Momoi presented their plan for the head coaching position next season on paper to Watanabe.

The plan included retaining Okazaki as the head coach.

It is not clear from a legal standpoint whether it was mandatory for the Giants to present the hiring plan to Watanabe and how much authority he has to change it.

According to Kiyotake, Watanabe agreed to the plan and it was finalized. But Watanabe told Kiyotake on Nov. 9 that he was planning to appoint Suguru Egawa, a former Giants pitcher and well-known TV figure, as head coach and had already started negotiating with him.

Kiyotake said the Giants were ready to sign a contract with Okazaki on Nov. 11 but Watanabe tried to reverse the plan with the "voice of authority."

Kiyotake said he unsuccessfully tried to persuade Watanabe to reconsider and then decided to disclose the problem to the public.

He also revealed Friday that Watanabe tried to get him to cancel the press conference just before he was about to hold it.

"By the end of the call he was threatening me by saying things like 'You are going to ruin yourself. You are waging all-out war against the Yomiuri Shimbun,' " Kiyotake said in his statement.

Okazaki eventually stayed on as head coach.

Watanabe issued a statement Nov. 12 arguing that Kiyotake's contention was untrue. Watanabe admitted Kiyotake had proposed a coach appointment plan, but said that since the Giants lost the Central League Climax Series, it is natural changes were needed.

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The Japan Times

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