TOKYO (AP) — The head of Japanese whisky maker Suntory said Friday that merging the Japanese and American work cultures remains a major challenge, more than 20 months after his company acquired the U.S. maker of Jim Beam bourbon.
Takeshi Niinami, the president and CEO of Suntory Holdings Ltd., told a Tokyo news conference that integration is difficult because of differing career aspirations and compensation systems for Japanese and American employees.
He recalled the fictional but all-to-real confusion in "Lost in Translation," when actor Bill Murray is depicted filming a whisky commercial, for Suntory's Hibiki brand.
"I understand this type of situation can and will happen," Niinami said at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan. "Beam and Suntory definitely have differences. ... This is not an easy task. But I'm ready for it."
Suntory bought the former Beam Inc. in April 2014, and hired Niinami as the first outsider to lead the company in October of that year.
Niinami said his goal is to create a global workforce that shares ideas freely, but he conceded that he doesn't have a solution yet to overcome the differences.
The combined Beam Suntory will have to concentrate on integration for at least three to four years, he said, so it has no interest in additional acquisitions for now.