When president-elect Donald J. Trump brought along his daughter Ivanka to meet Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe in mid-November, observers raised their eyebrows. While family members often accompany heads of state on diplomatic visits, Ivanka’s presence in the meeting itself was highly unusual.
It also came as she was negotiating a deal with a Japanese company, which is backed by a government-owned development bank. As the New York Times reports (paywall), Ivanka is in the midst of closing a licensing deal with a Japanese retail company company known as Sanei International. The potential partnership highlights the troubling overlap between the Trump family’s corporate deals and president-elect Trump’s diplomatic efforts.
Sanei International is a Tokyo-based retailer that designs, manufactures, and sells branded apparel and accessories. Operated by CEO Takahiko Miyake, it owns the licensing rights for domestic franchises of many international brands. In 2004, for example, the company partnered with Mattel to launch Barbie-themed clothing and accessory stores across Japan. It also works with the UK’s Calloway and Kate Spade, and upscale fashion designer Vivienne Tam, and has a number of in-house brands, like Bosch and Pinky & Dianne.
Sanei’s parent company is TSI Holdings, whose largest shareholder is the Development Bank of Japan, which owns 8.03% of the company’s outstanding shares, according to S&P Capital Intelligence. The Development Bank of Japan is wholly owned by Japan’s government.
It’s unlikely that Ivanka’s deal with Sanei was discussed during the Abe meeting. But since press was barred from attending, there’s no way of knowing. Even if it wasn’t talked about, the pictures that circulated of Ivanka with Abe and Trump could help her get a sweet deal out of any negotiations with Sanei.
Trump said he will hold a press conference on Dec. 15 with his children to discuss getting “completely out of business operations.” But Ivanka’s appearance at the Abe meeting, even as she’s doing a deal with a Japanese government-backed company, show business and politics may continue to be deeply intertwined even if he personally exits.