(Bloomberg) -- J-pop pioneer Johnny & Associates Inc. will change its name and split off its talent management operations to contain the fallout from years of sexual abuse by late founder Johnny Kitagawa.
President Noriyuki Higashiyama said Monday the existing Johnny’s entity will be known as ‘Smile-Up’ from Oct. 17, and shutter operations after completing victim compensation. The new company will manage the agency’s contracted artists and operate under a new name, to be decided by fans, and be headed by Higashiyama.
“Everything that has the Johnny’s name will see it erased,” said Higashiyama, referring to existing bands that include the Johnny’s moniker, and other related firms.
A growing number of Japanese companies have cut ties with Johnny’s, charging that the company hasn’t done enough in response to the scandal.
Management confirmed Kitagawa’s sexual abuse of underage singers and actors last month, following an investigation that said the J-pop mogul had abused at least hundreds of victims dating back to the 1970s. Compensation will begin next month, according to the company, with 325 people currently seeking remuneration. Of those, around 150 have been confirmed as former members of Johnny’s so far.
Following the investigation results, Kitagawa’s niece Julie Keiko Fujishima also stepped down as president, but will continue to hold all shares in Smile-Up in order to deliver compensation, according to the company’s lawyer. Fujishima won’t be holding any shares in the still unnamed new firm, nor will be involved in its management.
Around half the 65 listed companies in Japan with advertising-related contracts with Johnny’s stars have either said they would terminate or not renew those contracts, according to Sept. 21 report by data firm Teikoku Databank.
Japanese broadcasters have since followed suit. The August investigation said many TV stations perpetuated the sexual abuse by turning a blind eye to longstanding allegations.
Nippon Television executives last month said the broadcaster asked Johnny’s to consider a name change and a corporate split. Government-backed NHK, which has traditionally featured Johnny’s singers in its year-end music show, said it will suspend future collaboration until it confirms Johnny’s is compensating victims and conducting preventative measures.
Johnny’s clout within the world’s second-biggest music industry remains strong, however.
In 2022, many of the top-selling artists in Japan had ties to the Johnny’s agency, according to markets research firm SoundScan Japan. Frontrunner Snow Man logged ¥11 billion ($73.5 million) in singles and albums sales, followed by King & Prince’s ¥7.7 billion.
A vast network of fan clubs that give members early access to live tickets and exclusive digital content continues to fuel enthusiasm for Johnny’s artists. The talent agency commands more than 11 million subscriptions to such fan clubs, the Nikkei newspaper reported last month.
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