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Shukan Gendai: Yakuza owner & problematic employee

By Zach Arnold | April 1, 2007

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By Zach Arnold

Printable version over at

Kakutolog also read the Shukan Gendai article. Motoichiro Takasu also has thoughts about the subject (in Japanese).

Today’s edition of Shukan Gendai (pages 34-37, no author byline) has a three-page article about the sale of PRIDE assets by Dream Stage Entertainment to Zuffa LLC/UFC. The title of the article is Acquisition of PRIDE assets = boryokudan (yakuza) owner & problematic employee of Fuji TV. That employee is former Fuji TV chief producer Kunio Kiyohara, whose father is a major figure in the FujiSankei conglomerate and supposedly helped his son get a job with the Fuji TV network.

Kiyohara (and his alleged desire to get PRIDE back on Fuji TV) is the focus of the Gendai article, with the article having three main pictures. The first is a main picture of Kiyohara walking in a suit with a briefcase, the second is an image from the Roppongi Hills Arena press conference with Nobuhiko Takada, Kazuyuki Fujita, Lorenzo Fertitta, Jeff Monson, and Dana White on stage posing to the cameras, and the third a picture of Nobuyuki Sakakibara. The Roppongi Hills Arena picture is juxtaposed to a picture of an apartment complex that Gendai claims is where Kiyohara lives.

Picture captions (paraphrased): Kiyohara picture (March 28th, Fuji TV person in charge of PRIDE events and former chief producer Kunio Kiyohara), apartment picture (Tokyo apartment mansion complex with 32 floors. Kiyohara is on the 25th floor and on the 31st floor is where DSE’s owner lives), Roppongi picture (March 27th, Roppongi Hills press conference where kakutougi promotion UFC bought the PRIDE assets and DSE dissolves, UFC owner in the center of picture), Sakakibara picture (Sakakibara resigned on March 27th and he continues to deny the truth of our articles and continues to lie about suing us).

(Start of article translation)

1 year from our big scoop – promoting company DSE is finished and Nobuyuki Sakakibara resigned

The very popular kakutougi (fighting) event PRIDE was run by the yakuza. Even though they denied our claims, DSE’s broadcasting contract was terminated by Fuji TV. What will Fuji TV producer Kunio Kiyohara do… He has a great responsibility.

One year since our exposé found that the promoter of PRIDE fighting events DSE (Dream Stage Entertainment) announced its dissolving. Since last March (2006), we have produced 13 articles concerning PRIDE being run by the boryokudan (yakuza) and that Fuji TV, while knowing this, continued to broadcast PRIDE events. On June 5th, 2006, Fuji TV suddenly announced that it was terminating its broadcast contract with PRIDE. Despite this, DSE President Nobuyuki Sakakibara (age 43) has continued to deny the truth of our reports.

According to an investigator from Kanagawa kenkei (police), “The owner of DSE, Mr. I (Ishizaka aka Kim-Dok Soo), is a member of the boryokudan group X-gumi (Ed. — this is a cover name for the name of I’s alleged yakuza group). In the past, Mr. I was involved in fraudulent activities in the Kansai area, and he started his involvement with PRIDE 10 years ago as the major shareholder of DSE. President Sakakibara was a former employee of Tokai TV (in Nagoya), but he became heavily involved with the boryokudan under Mr. I. Since last year, the financial condition of DSE has deteriorated and Mr. I has agreed to sell his interests to American kakutougi event UFC owners, Zuffa, with DSE selling PRIDE assets for around 1.2 billion yen ($13 million USD). The police are watching the movement of this money because it is expected to be paid to the boryokudan, in particular to X-gumi.”

Sakakibara on March 27th had a press conference in Tokyo at Roppongi Hills near his residence with fans and fighters. Sakakibara said, “With my resignation from PRIDE, the negative image of PRIDE has disappeared. I would like to request that TV broadcasters air PRIDE again on terrestrial (free-to-air) TV. If possible, I would like this to be Fuji TV.” This was a passionate love-call to Fuji TV.

It is true that Sakakibara’s presence led to the image of PRIDE = boryokudan (yakuza) due to the events around Inoki Matsuri (Bom-Ba-Ye 2003) when he was involved in criminal extortion against producer Seiya Kawamata (age 40) in conjunction with top ranking members of X-Gumi including Mr. I (Ishizaka). Sakakibara was present during the making of these threats and he was involved in these threats including throwing a book at Kawamata. This incident was investigated by the Kanagawa kenkei (police) who confirmed these facts. With Sakakibara’s retirement and Mr. I not currently being involved in ownership and operations, it may appear that PRIDE has cut its relations with the boryokudan (yakuza) and with these developments there are voices in Fuji TV suggesting that PRIDE should be broadcast again on Fuji TV. According to a leading fight industry figure, “The person trying to get PRIDE back on terrestrial (free-to-air) TV is former chief producer Kunio Kiyohara. Even when Fuji TV cut ties with PRIDE’s contract, Kiyohara has been telling his subordinates that ‘I will ensure that PRIDE is back on TV, so be prepared.’ At the K-1 year-end party last year, Kiyohara told everyone ‘2006 was a terrible year for me and I would like to have a better 2007.’ Even at this time, it was common sense in the fight industry that PRIDE would be sold and everybody expected that Kiyohara would try to bring PRIDE back to terrestrial (free-to-air) TV.”

Dinner between boryokudan (yakuza) bosses and their front men

Kiyohara has been pushing very hard to bring PRIDE back to national TV. However, we believe that Kiyohara must explain why he is pushing so hard to have PRIDE back on TV. As we published last year, Kiyohara and Sakakibara have undoubted deep and close relations. Kiyohara knew all about the relations between DSE and the boryokudan (yakuza), and even while knowing this he was the key man to connect Fuji TV to the boryokudan. Kiyohara was the man who introduced Sakakibara (‘bara-chan’) to Kawamata, which led to the criminal extortion and threats made by Sakakibara to Kawamata and so Kiyohara has responsbility for this incident. Furthermore, Kiyohara has been questioned by the Kanagawa kenkei (police) and he has admitted his relations with Mr. I and bosses of boryokudan group X-Gumi, including several dinners with them. In spite of this, Fuji TV has not punished this problem employee. According to a Fuji TV staffer, “For many years, Fuji TV had been concerned about the close relations between Kiyohara and DSE. After the termination of the PRIDE contract, we all expected Kiyohara to quit. However, even now he is a producer in the sports department because he is the son of the CEO of Fuji TV’s parent company, Sankei Shimbun, maybe Fuji TV can’t get rid of him.”

Investigators have questioned him at his residence

This problem staff has even more issues. Kiyohara and yakuza boss Mr. I (Ishizaka) reside in the same luxury mansion complex in Tokyo, with Mr. I on the 31st floor and Kiyohara on the 25th floor. This 32-floor tower mansion apartment complex was built in September of 2004 and Kiyohara lives in apartment number 25xx. Kiyohara’s apartment is a large apartment at 115 square meters and was priced at over 100 million yen (over $1 million USD). According to its title documents, it was purchased on October 29th, 2004. Mr. I’s apartment is 31xx and is the name of his talent agency ‘Museum Museum’ of which celebrity Gackt is a member of. I’s apartment is 132 square meters and was purchased on the same date as Kiyohara’s apartment, on October 29th of 2004. Since last year, these apartments have been under the surveillance of the Kanagawa kenkei (police). According to a resident of the same apartment building, “The police have been here several times. We have also seen Hidehiko Yoshida and many other fighters regularly coming here. They have been using the 31st floor of the mansion as a sort of entertainment place for PRIDE fighters.” An investigator from Kanagawa kenkei (police) explains this as follows: “As a result of the incidents in the Kawamata case, there are outstanding arrest warrants and on February 14th, 2006, Mr. I was supposed to be arrested on his return to Narita Airport (in Chiba) from his trip to Australia. However, there was a leak and Mr. I escaped to South Korea. At that time, a ‘wanted’ poster was produced for Mr. I and we investigated his mansion residence. We do not believe that the fact that Mr. I and Kiyohara are living in the same mansion building is a coincidence.” Kiyohara’s mansion apartment is in his and his wife’s name. According to the title documents, it appears that both Kiyohara and his wife borrowed around 50 million yen (around $550,000 USD) each to buy the apartment. However, the wife’s loan was repaid within six months and on April 18th, 2005, the mortgage was removed. This is a very rich couple.

We wanted an explanation from Kiyohara concerning his apartment, so we contacted Kiyohara directly on March 28, 2007, at 10 AM we asked Kiyohara, as he left his apartment carrying a black briefcase and with his top shirt bottoms undone (2-button) with a blazer and a deep gold tan, looking all the part of a member of his industry.

“We’re Shukan Gendai, you’re Kiyohara right?” He didn’t reply but looked at us.

“Will Fuji TV broadcast PRIDE again?” Kiyohara replied, “Sorry, could you please talk to our PR department?”

We asked Kiyohara, “It is rumored that you will be the fight producer again.” Kiyohara appeared surprised at this question.

We also asked, “DSE’s owner, Mr. I also owns an apartment in this building doesn’t he?” Kiyohara replied laughing as he got into a taxi. “Really? I didn’t know. This is causing a lot of troubles.”

We contacted Fuji TV’s PR department and they replied, “We are not considering broadcasting PRIDE events again and we have not made any offer to do so. We are not aware that Kiyohara and Mr. I live in the same residential building.”

Fuji TV may also be too busy with other scandals at the moment to properly investigate Kiyohara, but we can say that it is definitely not acceptable for PRIDE to be broadcast on terrestrial (free-to-air) national TV.

Topics: All Topics, Japan, Media, MMA, PRIDE, UFC, Yakuza, Zach Arnold | 1 Comment » | Permalink | Trackback |

One Response to “Shukan Gendai: Yakuza owner & problematic employee”

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