By  on October 2, 2007

Kihachiro Onitsuka, chairman of Asics Corp., a leading footwear and activewear company, died of heart failure in a hospital in Kobe, Japan, on Saturday. He was 89.

Onitsuka founded Onitsuka Co. Ltd. in 1949, as the first athletic shoe company in Japan. In 1977, Onitsuka merged with equipment manufacturer G.T.O. Co. and activewear vendor Jelenk Co. to form Asics, a name derived from the Latin phrase anima sana in corpore sano — a sound mind in a sound body. Onitsuka became Asics' president, and in 1992 was named chairman, a post he held until his death. He led the company to become the world's fifth largest sporting goods manufacturer.

Born May 29, 1918, in Tottori Prefecture in western Japan, Onitsuka made it his mission after World War II to inspire young people through sports.

In addition to his business career, Onitsuka was president of the Japan Basketball Association and lifetime honorary president of the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry. He also was an author of works including "My Personal History" (1992).

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