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Weekly magazines focus on DSE situation

By Zach Arnold | June 8, 2006

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Yahoo Japan HP:
Yahoo Japan HP: “Complete denial of ‘Black Association’ by PRIDE”

By Zach Arnold

At yesterday’s press conference, DSE President Nobuyuki Sakakibara vociferously defended his company and denied all allegations of ties to the yakuza. He specifically named Shukan Gendai as a publication that damaged his company and caused the cancelation of the Fuji TV deal.

Shukan Gendai is a magazine published by big Japanese publisher Kodansha. Kodansha publishes multiple weekly magazines, with their top photo weekly magazine being FRIDAY. A day after the much-publicized PRIDE press conference, Kodansha (through FRIDAY) fired back in their top weekly magazine with a scathing article against PRIDE & Fuji TV. K-1 also receives some attention.

Summary Translation

Fuji “PRIDE” contract termination – The Real Story
Inside: Why doesn’t President Hieda come clean on the boryokudan (yakuza) connections

For the 50 million fans all around the country, there could not have been more shocking news. On June 5th, Fuji TV announced that they would terminate all relations with PRIDE, the kakutougi (MMA) event which Fuji TV has, until then, been exlusively broadcasting.

PRIDE, just like K-1 before them, had become through Fuji TV one of the popular fighting events around the country. On New Year’s Eve of 2005, PRIDE was able to produce the dream card of Yoshida vs. Ogawa. Recently, they produced Bushido on June 4th and Fuji TV had taped this event and was scheduled to broadcast this event on June 10th. Despite these facts, shockingly and without warning all relations were terminated.

PRIDE has also been broadcasting on PPV with SkyPerfecTV, but even this broadcast is now under review for termination. Fuji TV said that they terminated their relations with PRIDE due to PRIDE doing something that was absolutely unacceptable. What is this totally unacceptable thing that PRIDE did? The fans of PRIDE and other general public are not aware of this reason and deserve to know.

We spoke to a member of Fuji TV’s executive team and he had this to say: “As a matter of fact, based on the conclusions of our internal investigation, we could discover that DSE had a very close relationship to a yakuza group. As a result, in a director’s meeting just before the announcement, it was unanimously decided that we would terminate all relations with DSE.”

Up until now, it has generally been rumored that the fight world and the yakuza have been closely related. For PRIDE and K-1 events, the VIP seats are 100,000Y each and there is also a close relation with the sponsors for the events. Also, there is a cash flow of around 1 billion yen from the TV networks to the event companies. It has been a dark secret in the fight world that a part of these funds are funneled to the yakuza, who control some of these events.

This dark secret came out in the open in the events surrounding the Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye 2003 event broadcasted by Nippon TV. The president (promoter) of this event, Seiya Kawamata, was extorted and threatened by yakuza groups in a criminal incident.

According to a reporter for a Japanese newspaper, “At that time, Kawamata was proposing PRIDE heavyweight champion Fedor as his main attraction. Prior to that event, DSE who has been terminated by Fuji TV recently, dispatched high-ranking yakuza to threaten and extort Kawamata in relation to the proposed use of Fedor.”

According to Kawamata, the real owner and power behind Sakakibara is another person. That person is a front for the yakuza. On December 21, 2003, before the press media event, Kawamata was summoned to a Tokyo hotel and Sakakibara and his yakuza backers met Kawamata annd threatened him to not use Fedor in his event.

Kawamata did not succumb to this pressure and following the event, he received threats and extortion from the yakuza to pay money for Fedor’s appearance. Kawamata actually paid 3 million yen and 5 million yen to the yakuza.

Immediately after the event in the early days of 2004, Kawamata was summoned to a restaurant in Shizuoka prefecture and was ordered to pay 200 million yen to the yakuza. Moreover, due to the poor ratings of the event on Nippon TV, Nippon TV refused to pay the outstanding money and Kawamata ran away overseas to escape the yakuza pressure.

In Autumn of 2004, Kawamata made a criminal complaint to the Kanagawa police detailing these matters. Following an investigation, in February 2006 the police arrested a number of high-ranking yakuza. However, in March of 2006 these yakuza were released due to insufficient evidence.

Recently, Kawamata has revealed the facts surrounding these incidents to Shukan Gendai. However, even though he was present with the high-ranking yakuza when the criminal actions occurred, Sakakibara has responded by threatening criminal and civil actions against Shukan Gendai.

Even though Fuji TV has terminated its relationship with DSE, this does not absolve Fuji TV from responsibility. According to another journalist from a major newspaper, “As part of the police investigation into Kawamata’s criminal complaint, some Fuji TV staff have been questioned by the police. From the middle of 2005, Fuji TV’s chief producer Kunio Kiyohara has been questioned by the police several times regarding his relations with DSE. At that time, Fuji TV was also a subject of the investigation and the focus was on relationships with certain sponsors. The main focus of the investigation was the funneling of cash to yakuza elements. Even inside Fuji TV, senior management has known about those relations and the national tax office (Japan’s version of the IRS) is also investigating into these cash movements.”

FRIDAY contacted Fuji TV’s PR department for their comments in relation to these matters. In response to our questions to them about whether their employees have been questioned by the police in relation to their ties with PRIDE and whether they had any relations with the yakuza, Fuji TV replied: “We have not heard of any of these things. We cannot reply to these matters based on the protection of privacy of the persons involved.”

Since we could not get any response from the PR department, we had no choice but to visit the home of President Hieda (of Fuji TV) who is implicated in the Murakami Fund scandal and is the face of Fuji TV. Hieda said, “I can’t talk about this due to restrictions by the PR department. Don’t take my photo!” and ran into his house.

Without making any explanation or giving any proper reasons for their sudden termination of PRIDE, Fuji TV has betrayed the fans and their viewers. Fuji TV has exclusively broadcasted PRIDE events for 7 years since 1999. Nobody will accept that Fuji TV now says that it knows nothing about these incidents.

There is no doubt that other fight events have the same problem. For example, the same rumors about relations with the yakuza surround K-1 as well. What will Fuji TV do about their broadcasts?

According to Fuji TV’s PR department, “Just because PRIDE has this has problem does not that mean that we will stop broadcasting K-1. However, this may change depending on the circumstances.”

We would like Fuji TV to not betray the feelings of the fans who can’t buy tickets to these events and look forward to watching these events on TV.

Photo captions:

  1. Nobuhiko Takada and DSE President Nobuyuki Sakakibara at the opening of PRIDE’s dojo on June 5th. On the same day the broadcast was terminated and for them it was like “water into their ears when asleep.”
  2. At PRIDE ringside: Kyoko Uchida (announcer), AiyaPan (Takashima) – announcer, and Kunio Kiyohara (Fuji TV lead producer)
  3. We asked President Hieda but he said, “Ask the PR department”

Topics: All Topics, Japan, K-1, Media, MMA, PRIDE, Yakuza, Zach Arnold | 7 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

7 Responses to “Weekly magazines focus on DSE situation”

  1. HONG KONG PHOOEY says:

    Hey Zack, I think you are wrong on the date of the Fuji contract. Fuji began airing PRIDE shows on their network in 2000. Just google it or watch the early shows, you’ll see it was a different production company.

  2. Zach Arnold says:

    [Hey Zack, I think you are wrong on the date of the Fuji contract. Fuji began airing PRIDE shows on their network in 2000. Just google it or watch the early shows, you’ll see it was a different production company.]

    The article stated the date, so that was the translation.

    As far as I can remember, I know that PRIDE 5 (Takada vs. Coleman from 4/29/1999 in Nagoya) was on SkyPerfecTV and I can’t recall if Fuji carried that one.

  3. Shaolin says:

    Yes i said very fair article, and good translation.

    This is one article that does not just target pride but targets all the guilty parties, when you have interviews with sapp and maurice smith having there lives threatened, I wonder when the media will pick up on that and ask k-1. The reality that the fans are the one who pay the price in the end as mentioned in this article is spot on.

    If pride is guilty of yakuza ties and threats, then so is k-1, and fuji i respect least of all, because there is no way this is new to them, they understood what was going on especially when fans even here in america have been aware of prides yakuza links.

  4. Zach Arnold says:

    [This is one article that does not just target pride but targets all the guilty parties, when you have interviews with sapp and maurice smith having there lives threatened, I wonder when the media will pick up on that and ask k-1.]

    You get this feeling that K-1 is celebrating what is happening, but I really wonder if they are the next target. You have to think that given what Kawamata said in the Gendai articles about his relationship to K-1 that someone in the press will start focusing in on it.

  5. Shaolin says:

    I agree, but that interview with sapp in light of these recent events, I dont understand how the japanese media is not bringing this up, k-1 seems to be getting away with exactly what pride did not, when a huge star like sapp goes on record of having his own life threatened, why is the media not picking this up as well? This is equally as huge as the pride story.

    Incase anyone was wondering the article on question is here.

    http://www.mmaringreport.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=857&Itemid=53

  6. Zach Arnold says:

    In the case of Sapp, I can note that one media outlet that is considered the K-1 line of media, Weekly Fight, ripped Sapp in their paper after the incident. They also quoted Bas Boon and Simon Rutz and it wasn’t a friendly piece to anyone not considered a tight ally to K-1.

    The fact that at least one of the big weekly magazines brought up K-1 on Fuji TV indicates to me that scrutiny will pick up in the press.

  7. […] No, Fuji TV dumped PRIDE not because of allegations simply from Shukan Gendai. There was a formal police investigation from the Kanagawa police on this matter. As has been noted before, some Fuji TV employees had been questioned by the police in the past over business dealings with PRIDE. More importantly, two investigations (one from the Kanagawa police and one internal Fuji TV investigation) pointed out that chief TV producer and friend of Sakakibara, Kunio Kiyohara, had a lot more involvement than initially suspected in PRIDE. It was reported that Kiyohara had social meetings with PRIDE’s alleged backer, Mr. I (Ishizaka), and that this open admission of associating with a top underworld boss (who had rumoredly made his name in loan sharking circles in Osaka) was shocking considering how high of a profile Kiyohara had publicly. His father, Takehiko Kiyohara, became chairman of Sankei Shimbun (a major newspaper) and his name helped his son land his position in the FujiSankei conglomerate. Furthermore, Gendai wrote that Kiyohara was investigated over accusations of him transferring money from the conglomerate to fund other business projects that questionable people were involved in. By no means was the investigation into PRIDE simply based on magazine reports, although the public spotlight did provide some momentum. The red flags raised came from police questioning about Kiyohara. Fuji TV President Hieda wanted to clean the conglomerate from scandals (2005 was quite the year between Livedoor’s attempted takeover bid and the Murakami Fund scandal) before having to address 1,000 stockholders about corporate accountability. […]

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