Disgraced Japanese talent management company Johnny & Associates yesterday announced a short-term rebrand and fundamental restructure as it continues to distance itself from is late founder Johnny Kitagawa.
The company will stop using its founder's name, operating instead as Smile-Up. However, that company will basically cease trading as a talent management agency, to be replaced by a new business. Smile-Up will instead focus on identifying and compensating the hundreds of people Kitagawa sexually abused while he was running the J-pop powerhouse.
After decades of denial, earlier this year Johnny’s finally admitted that Kitagawa prolifically abused boys and young men who worked with the company.
Based on the findings of an independent report, Kitagawa’s niece Julie Fujishima stood down as president of the business, and the company said in a statement: "We recognise that the late Johnny Kitagawa carried out sexual assaults over a long period". A scheme was then set up to compensate his victims.
According to Japan Times, 478 people have now contacted the company to report abuse, of which 325 are seeking compensation. Of those, around 150 have been confirmed as people who have worked, or continue to work, with the company.
Various brands in Japan have cut their ties with Johnnys and its artists in the wake of the independent report. In a bid to counter that, the agency previously said that it would not take any commissions from its artists for a year, so that any monies spent with those artists would not benefit the management firm.
The plan now is to set up an entirely new business that will take over the management of artists currently allied with Johnny’s. New President Noriyuki Higashiyama explained at a press conference: “We will be disbanding Johnny & Associates and face the victims in a sincere manner. The new company will create a new future with its fans".