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Japanese Exec Says He Was Not Told Why He Was Asked To Switch Schools

September 4, 1987

BOSTON (AP) _ An executive with Fuji Photo Film Co. says he’s not a spy and was never told why the University of Rochester decided he could not attend business school there after complaints by the Japanese company’s fierce rival, Eastman Kodak Co.

″I came to America to study business,″ Tsuneo Sakai, 33, of Tokyo, said Thursday.

Kodak officials were concerned that some of their executives would be taking classes at the university’s William E. Simon School of Business with Sakai, a planner and coordinator of new products for Fuji.

Kodak, which is based in Rochester, is one of the university’s biggest benefactors and about 90 Kodak employees attend the Simon School. Last month, Kodak announced it was giving the school $3.6 million over 10 years for a program to teach business executives ″creating risk taking.″

Meanwhile, former U.S. Treasury Secretary William E. Simon, who raised $15 million for the school that bears his name, rebuked the school for its decision.

″There’s just absolutely no place for blackmail,″ Simon told the Rochester Times-Union. ″I think it gives corporate America a bad name when it does things like that, and it’s even worse for a university when they cave in that way.″

In a telephone interview from his Arlington, Mass., home Thursday night, Sakai said he was not an industrial spy.

He said the Simon School sent him a letter withdrawing its acceptance but gave him no reason. The school also recommended that he apply to the Massachusetts Insitute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management.

Economist Lester Thurow, dean of the Sloan school, said Thursday he had received a telephone call from Rochester’s Dean Paul McAvoy, who told him, ″We are having a problem.″

McAvoy explained that the University of Rochester officials withdrew Sakai’s acceptance because they ″were not interested in having a war with Kodak,″ Thurow said.

Once he was assured by Kodak officials that the company was not trying to keep Sakai out of all American universities, Thurow said he decided to accept him.

″It is very common (for university officials) to get pressure from American business about letting in too many Japanese,″ he said.

Sakai, who plans to study at Sloan for two years to earn a master’s degree in business, said he would have preferred to attend the Rochester school because of certain courses.

Kodak told The New York Times it did not threaten or force Simon officials to reconsider their decision regarding Sakai.

The company said it was concerned that its senior and mid-level managers attending the Simon School ″would feel inhibited in discussions and-or reviewing case studies for fear of revealing proprietary information.″

The Simon School said it acted not only because Kodak was concerned, but because the school also was worried ″about a possible constraint Mr. Sakai’s presence might produce on the free exchange of information in the classroom.″

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