TOKYO — Japan's three largest newspapers said Thursday that they held up an ad by Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens Jr., who is battling for control of a Japanese company, but Toyota Motor Corp. denied his claim that it tried to block the ad.
Two of the three papers said they will print a version of the ad--which claims that collusive Japanese business practices force higher prices on consumers--by next week, but without company names. The other paper said it is considering printing a similar version.
"There's no freedom of speech in Japan," said Pickens' lawyer, Kanji Ishizumi. "Toyota published an ad in a U.S. paper saying 'shut up' to Pickens. They were able to enjoy freedom of speech in the United States but Pickens can't do that here."
Pickens contended in a statement issued Wednesday in Texas that Toyota and its powerful advertising agency, Dentsu, were trying to prevent him from publishing the ad.
Since last year, Boone Co., a U.S. investment firm controlled by Pickens, has held the largest equity stake in Koito Manufacturing Co., a major automobile parts maker closely linked to Toyota, Japan's largest auto maker.
Pickens says his unsuccessful battle to gain a seat on Koito's board illustrates how investment opportunities in Japan are closed to foreigners.
Pickens' statement read: "Our ads were accepted, but we have now been told that there won't be any space available for several more weeks because Toyota's advertising firm, Dentsu, is buying up all available space."
The ad, addressed to Koito employees and shareholders and consumers, maintains that the Texan's campaign for a board seat "could be a major step toward freeing Japanese consumers from artificially high prices and returning portions of the profits to the companies' investors."
The ad asks Japanese consumers to send information about "unfair practices" of Toyota, Nissan, Honda or other car makers to Pickens in Dallas.
"It would never, ever happen--that Dentsu would pressure the media not to carry Pickens' advertisement," said Jim Sakaguchi of Toyota's international affairs department. "We have never discussed this matter with Dentsu."