Mesmerized by Numbers

Born in Tokyo, Masatomo Sakairi was raised mainly in the US and Canada since his father worked for the Mitsubishi Corporation, a Japanese trading company. After graduating from the International Christian University (ICU) in Japan, Sakairi entered the world of investment banking – exhilarated and mesmerized by numbers with many zeros. After graduating from Harvard Business School (HBS), he went into private equity with The Carlyle Group. Sakairi had been interested in corporate buyouts since the first major buyout boom which occurred when he was in high school in the 80s. He wanted to help run companies, which he was able to do at Carlyle.

After starting an engagement fund (VARECS) that his partner later grew to over $500 million worth of assets under management (AUM), Sakairi joined the Japanese government-sponsored turnaround fund. He was part of the initial team of approximately ten people sent in by the government to turn around Japan Airlines. They succeeded in just a few short years.

After the government job, Sakairi went back to work with Kito, the company that he had invested in while at Carlyle, and then VARECS. Since moving to New York in 2018, he has been helping domestic companies go global.


Iroha: What projects are you currently working on, and what do you want to mention most recently or in the future?

Masatomo: I enjoy mentoring others. I currently mentor students at Baruch College and entrepreneurs from time to time.

Iroha: How do you see your role in the society or in the business?

Masatomo: As a Japanese citizen living in the U.S., I would like to make sure that Japan is well respected and that those of Japanese descent living here are given equal rights and opportunities in the workplace and society. To ensure that these things are upheld, I take every opportunity to partake in the promotion and education of Japanese culture and what makes Japan so special.

Iroha: Based on your background, do you have any advice or message for young people who want to follow in your footsteps?

Masatomo: Stay open and follow your dreams!

Hard work (and a healthy dose of luck) got me my dream job (since high school!) of doing private equity. However, I didn't stop there; I kept my mind open to new opportunities and expanded my horizons by venturing into hedge funds, turnarounds, corporate strategy, and startups. Now, I consider myself an internationalization expert!

I went to the college in Brooklyn (Medgar Evers College) because, as part of my package to get an H1-B [visa] without going through the lottery system, I went through a program jointly developed by NYC EDC and CUNY (City University of New York, which Medgar Evers is a part of) called IN2NYC. Through this program, I became an Entrepreneur-In-Residence at the college mentoring students and faculty on how to start businesses while I did my thing at the fintech company that sponsored the actual visa. I did this for over a year before I left the fintech company and changed my visa over to be through Kito. Although I don't go to Medgar Evers anymore, I still mentor kids at Baruch College, which is also a CUNY college. Technically, I'm also an Advisor at the Tech Incubator at Queens College (but I haven't done anything with them since COVID started).

Iroha: Outside of work, what are you most interested in right now?

Masatomo: I am most interested in how capitalism will transform itself in the future. I believe that the Japanese qualities of tradition and community may prevail over the short-term effects of money and greed. For Japan, sustainability was an important value for thousands of years. It's not just a trendy word of the times. That is why I got involved with "The Secret of Sustainability in Business" series sponsored by the Japan House LA. The series examines what makes companies like Kikkoman, Domyo, and Yamamotoyama last for hundreds of years.

written by Jessica Woolsey

Masatomo's Linkedin