Masatoshi Ito, billionaire behind the rise of 7-Eleven, dies at 98

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Masatoshi Ito, the Japanese billionaire who played a pivotal role in transforming 7-Eleven convenience stores into a global business empire, has passed away at the age of 98.

Mr Ito’s death was confirmed by 7-Eleven’s parent company, Seven & i Holdings, in a statement on Monday, the company adding that Mr Ito died from old age on 10 March 2023.

“We would like to express our deepest gratitude for your kindness and friendship during his life and respectfully inform you of his passing,” the company said.

7-Eleven was founded in 1927 in Dallas, Texas, before the company was acquired in 1971 by the Japanese retail group Ito-Yokado, which was headed by Mr Ito.

Under Mr Ito’s leadership, 7-Eleven expanded rapidly, with a focus on Japan, with Ito introducing new technology and management techniques to streamline operations and improve efficiency, including the use of barcodes and centralized inventory management.

In the 1980s, 7-Eleven began expanding into other international markets, and began introducing new products and services, such as financial services and ready-to-eat meals.

In 2005, Ito-Yokado underwent a name change and became known as Seven & i Holdings. The company’s new name pays homage to its predecessor, with the “i” in the name representing both Ito-Yokado and its former honorary chairman, Mr. Ito.

Seven & i Holdings now operates more than 80,000 7-Eleven stores worldwide, with more than 21,000 in Japan.