Nova chief’s profit company’s loss / Fired president suspected of breach of trust over equipment deal

A luxury president’s suite in a commercial building in Osaka used by Nozomu Sahashi, former president of Nova Corp., which has filed for court protection against bankruptcy, was shown to the press on Tuesday night.

Lawyer Toshiaki Higashibata, a preservation administrator of the firm, said, “This suite is a symbol of how the former president used the firm for his own purposes.”

The suite, located on the top floor of the 20-floor building in Naniwa Ward, Osaka, was renovated at a cost of 60 million yen to 70 million yen. The monthly rent of 2.7 million yen was covered by Nova.

Besides a desk and other office effects, the 330-square-meter space contains a bar stocked with premium wine and spirits and an eight-tatami mat tearoom. Opposite the tearoom is a wall that opens to access a secret chamber with a bed, sauna and bathroom with a jacuzzi. There is a similar president’s suite in the firm’s Tokyo headquarters, sources said.

An employee of the firm who entered the president’s suite for the first time said: “Employees were restricted [from entering the suite]. Only top executives could go in.” He said he did not expect the president’s suite would be so lavish, although he had heard a rumor about the secret room.

According to Higashibata, Sahashi’s income was about 300 million yen in fiscal 2005, when Nova recorded a deficit of 3.1 billion yen. In fiscal 2006, Sahashi’s income was 159 million yen, whereas Nova was 2.9 billion yen in the red.

Sahashi had been out of contact, but on Tuesday, his lawyer contacted the administrators. “[The lawyer] expressed an intention to object to [Nova’s] resolution to dismiss [Sahashi as president] and the court order to protect the firm’s assets. But an owner-proprietor should be the first to give up assets when the company is in trouble,” Higashibata said. “I, along with Nova employees, resent him.”

A 26-year-old former Nova instructor from Canada handed in her resignation on Oct. 19 without receiving her salary. She said she wished the president had carried out his responsibilities in a way that measured up to the splendor of his suite, and that by canceling the rent contract for the suite, he could have paid the salaries of 15 foreign instructors.

A 63-year-old woman of Sakai who had been going to Nova’s Sakai branch for seven years, paid 380,000 yen in advance for future lessons.

“I thought [Sahashi] might have lived in the lap of luxury, but this is much more than I’d imagined,” she said. “That might have been OK if the company was profitable, but he shouldn’t have done that when his firm was in financial trouble. He should come out in front of the students and apologize.”