Tadashi Yanai is the chairman and biggest shareholder of Fast Retailing, the largest clothing retailer in Asia and parent of Uniqlo. The Tokyo-based group has more than 2,300 stores and reported revenue of 2.3 trillion yen ($19 billion) in the year to Aug. 31, 2022. He also owns two golf courses on Hawaiian island, Maui.
The majority of Yanai’s fortune is derived from his stake in Fast Retailing, the parent company of Uniqlo. Fast Retailing is Asia’s largest clothing retailer with more than 2,300 stores, according to its website.
He owns 43% of the shares directly and through holding companies, according to Fast Retailing’s Aug. 4, 2023 stock exchange disclosure. He’s credited with the shares held by his wife and two sons because he’s founder and chairman of the company.
The value of his cash investments is based on investments, dividends, taxes and market performance.
Aldo Liguori, a Fast Retailing spokesman, declined to comment on the net worth calculation.
Education: Waseda University, Waseda University
Tadashi Yanai was born in 1949, the son of a tailor and a housewife in southern Japan during the US postwar occupation. A month after he was born, his father started a roadside men’s clothing store, Men’s Shop Ogori Shoji, in the mining town of Ube, about 75 miles from Hiroshima. The store was located on the first floor. The family lived on the floor above. The business grew into several outlets in the 1960s and 1970s.
Yanai graduated with a degree in economics and politics from Waseda University in 1971, and began his career selling kitchenware and men’s clothing at a Jusco supermarket. After a year, he quit and joined his father’s business.
In 1984, Yanai started Unique Clothing Warehouse in Hiroshima, later shortening the name to Uniqlo. He changed the name of his father’s company Ogori Shoji to Fast Retailing by 1991, reflecting the apparel chain’s expansion strategy. It soon became the fastest-growing retailer in Japan, expanding to encompass more than 100 stores over the next three years. That number doubled by 1996, as Yanai used capital from the stock market to build his empire and forge deals with Chinese apparel producers. He started designing, manufacturing and selling only Uniqlo-brand apparel. Uniqlo’s fleece jackets, selling for $15, became a hit product. An estimated one in four Japanese had bought a fleece item from Uniqlo by 1998. Uniqlo sold 26 million fleece units through more than 400 stores in 2000, all in Japan.
Yanai began expanding overseas in 2001 and ended up closing 16 of 21 stores in the UK. He started a food distribution business that also failed. The failures didn’t stop the billionaire from opening stores worldwide. As of July 2015, there were more than 1,600 Uniqlo stores around the world, of which 630 are outside Japan. The company plans to open 100 stores every year in China, it’s largest overseas market, according to its 2014 annual report. Besides Uniqlo and discount brand G.U., Fast Retailing has expanded by acquiring other fashion businesses, including New York’s Theory, France’s Comptoir des Cotonniers, and Onezone, Cabin Corp. and Princesse tam.tam.
- 1949 Born in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan.
- 1971 Graduates from Waseda University with bachelor’s degree.
- 1984 Opens the first Uniqlo store in Hiroshima.
- 1994 Lists Fast Retailing on Hiroshima Stock Exchange.
- 2001 Becomes an external director of SoftBank.
- 2006 Uniqlo opens fist global flagship store in New York’s SoHo district.
- 2012 Opens largest Uniqlo store in Ginza, Tokyo.
- 2014 Hong Kong depository receipts start trading.