Perspectives from ISB

Mitsui OSK was founded as a key part of the Mitsui zaibatsu (family-owned conglomerate) during the early industrialization of Japan. The company is now independent of the zaibatsu, but remains part of the Mitsui keiretsu (group of aligned companies).

Chen Shuntong was a shipping magnate in China, who landed as a refugee in Hong Kong 66 years ago. Chen owned four steamships, two of which were leased to Daido Kaiun, a Japanese shipping line, that later merged in Mitsui OSK. These two ships were commandeered by the Japanese Navy and were lost in WWII. The other two ships were scuttled by the defending Chinese army.

After the war, the Chen family received token repatriation from the Chinese government. However the family waged a protracted legal battle against Mitsui OSK based on the 70 year old lease document. In 2014, the Sanghai Maritime Court impounded one of Mitsui OSK’s bulk ore carriers and forced the company to pay 4 billion yen as repatriations to the descendants of Chen.

Now Chen’s family is feuding over how to divide the money. The branch of the family that remained in mainland China is threatening to challenge Chen’s will, which left any proceeds from the case to descendants of his eldest son, who live in Hong Kong. The challengers claim the will violates mainland China’s law on equal division of property to women.

Source: Financial Times, April 26, 2016