Savvy in any culture

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[Tokyo] Fumio Oshima is a key player in Dentsu's bid to evolve into a global powerhouse. The 66-year-old agency executive is also among the candidates who could slide into the chairman's seat at Japan's largest agency.

Mr. Oshima is the right-hand man to current Chairman-CEO Yutaka Narita, and exec VP of the agency's international division. He steered Dentsu into a prominent joint venture with Leo Burnett Co., D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles and their new owner, France's Publicis Groupe. Mr. Oshima also deftly handled overseas attention when Dentsu listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in December 2001.

Within Asia, Mr. Oshima has invested heavily in Dentsu's wholly owned Asian network. Unlike Dentsu's 21-year-old Asian joint venture with WPP Group's Young & Rubicam, Dentsu Asia has attracted business from Dentsu's client base in Japan, such as Canon and Toyota Motor Corp.

His candid manner and prowess with Western culture and languages (he's fluent in English and understands German) allow Mr. Oshima to rub shoulders with power brokers such as Publicis' Maurice Levy and WPP Group's Martin Sorrell as well as Wall Street analysts, a real virtue in Dentsu's upper echelons.

Mr. Oshima's commitment to expanding Dentsu's global business dates back to 1965, when he joined the account team for Nestle. He spent 17 years working with the Swiss company but also helped multinational clients reinforce business in Japan, including Coca-Cola Co. and Philip Morris Cos. He parlayed a flair with international clients into a job as general manager, and later president, of Dentsu Germany. Mr. Oshima returned to Japan in 1991, rising through the executive suites before assuming his current role last June.

Characteristic of Japanese executives, who shy from the limelight, Mr. Oshima highlights team achievements such as the public listing, which "put us on an equal footing with the major global agency companies," and completion of Dentsu's massive new headquarters in Tokyo's Shiodome district.

His skills, experience and VIP relationships, combined with Dentsu's intense desire to conquer the global advertising world one way or another, make Mr. Oshima a candidate to take over when Mr. Narita, 74, eventually retires. Even if that's not Mr. Oshima's destiny-Dentsu is a difficult company to decipher-he's already the public face of Dentsu outside Japan.

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