Before Jail, He Tried Porn

Once upon a time, Takafumi Horie was the most feared, loved, and hated man in Japan. That time has passed.

Horie was the founder of Livedoor, an internet portal that was once one of the country's biggest success stories. By 2004, Horie was looking to expand his business (and brand) and unsuccessfully tried to purchase an Osaka pro baseball team. His bid was blocked by the owners association.

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Horie, affectionately dubbed "Horiemon" because he resembles Doraemon, was not a popular guy among the country's entrenched elite. He didn't wear a suit, but favored a black t-shirt. His desk was next to the programmers, not some fancy private office. The way he talked and acted seemed more "American" than what Japanese business was used to. And he even had the gall to blog in a time when blogs were not widely accepted among regular readers, let alone stuffy corporate execs.

I interviewed Horie back in 2005 and covered his ensuing political campaign (read here). Horie lost, but while I was in Hiroshima for the election results, I met a tabloid journalist and a TV producer who both told me over waffles that Horie was only running for political office to cover his dicey business dealings. In January 2006, Horie was arrested, with cops descending on Livedoor's Roppongi Hills headquarters.

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The arrest and scandal tarnished Roppongi Hills for number of years after. Japanese companies fled from Mori Tower, the Roppongi Hills, an area that was synonymous with Horie. Rumors swirled that the whole ordeal even prompted Konami to leave Roppongi Hills for Tokyo Midtown. The stigma is now passed, especially now that Google's moved in.

Horie was held in jail for months without bail. He emerged thinner, but was found guilty for fraud and sentenced to two year and six months in prison. Horie maintained his innocence, saying in his autobiography that it was a plot to disgrace him and, and he appealed the sentence to the country's Supreme Court.

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Livedoor suffered, losing 90 percent of its stock value and being bought up by NHN, a South Korean content and online game provider.

While he was waiting for the Supreme Court's decision, Horie spent his free time saying controversial things like that Sony should exit the console business, writing about twenty books and producing a porno movie. Oh, there was that one time, he used a vibrator on an adult video actress in small music venue while judging a porn actress contest. The episode prompted snide remarks and "vibedoor" jokes online.

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This week, the Japanese Supreme Court upheld the sentence. Once the verdict is finalized, Horie will begin his 2 and a half year prison term.

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Photo courtesy of Tokyo Reporter.

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