Masatoshi Ito, Who Brought 7-Eleven to Japan, Passes Away

Ito, who was 98, led a company that introduced Japan to 7-Eleven and eventually bought the company.

March 13, 2023

ALEXANDRIA, Va.­—Masatoshi Ito, who has been called the Sam Walton of Japan, passed away March 10, according to a statement from Seven & i holdings. Ito, who was 98, led a company called Ito-Yokado when one of his executives visited a 7-Eleven in the United States and told Ito about the store.

In 1974, Ito brought the brand to Japan, opening the nation’s first 7-Eleven.

“The Japanese chain, which grew big on serving rice balls and sandwiches 24 hours a day for increasingly busy office workers during the country's economic bubble in the 1980s, acquired financially struggling Southland, the original franchiser [of 7-Eleven], in 1991,” according to the Kyodo News.

There are about 83,000 7-Eleven locations around the globe, and about a quarter of them are in Japan.

Ito forged a friendship with management consultant Peter Drucker, who advocated for a decentralized approach to running a large business. Ito donated $23 million to the Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management at Claremont Graduate University in California.

Seven & i Holdings took its current name in 2005, with the i honoring Ito. It bought Speedway for $21 billion in 2021 and is in the process of streamlining its holdings to focus on its c-stores.

Last week Tom Love, founder of Love’s Travel Stops, passed away at 85.