Bridgestone Will Likely Ask U.S. Chief to Resign
                    October 3, 2000

                    By TODD ZAUN and NORIHIKO SHIROUZU
                    Staff Reporters of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

                    TOKYO -- The president of Japan's Bridgestone Corp. indicated he will
                    ask for the resignation of Masatoshi Ono, the head of the company's
                    U.S. subsidiary, for his handling of the much-criticized recall of Firestone
                    tires in the U.S.

                                         Mr. Ono's departure, though not yet official,
                                         would come at a time of deepening crisis for the
                                         U.S. unit, Bridgestone/Firestone Inc., whose
                                         Firestone brand has been a force in the U.S. tire
                                         industry for about a century. Regulators and
                    congressional investigators are probing Bridgestone/Firestone's
                    handling of its massive recall of tires, allegedly linked to 101 deaths in
                    the U.S. and more than 50 deaths overseas.

                    Bridgestone/Firestone also is caught in a nasty battle with its biggest
                    U.S. customer, Ford Motor Co., and is under attack in South America as
                    well, where Firestone officials are being pressed along with their
                    counterparts from Ford to compensate people who had accidents linked
                    to tire failures. Many of the tire failures occurred when treads separated
                    on tires mounted on Ford's popular Explorer sports-utility vehicles.

                    Bridgestone President Yoichiro Kaizaki last month told The Wall Street
                    Journal that he was considering changing the top management at
                    Firestone in the aftermath of the recall of 6.5 million Firestone ATX, ATX
                    II and Wilderness AT tires. He declined at that time to comment on
                    which executives might be replaced. But in an interview with Nikkei
                    Business, a Japanese business magazine, published Friday, he went a
                    step further by confirming that Mr. Ono, Bridgestone/Firestone's
                    chairman and chief executive, would leave his post as a step toward
                    restoring the Firestone brand name.

                    "To start with, we will renew
                    Bridgestone/Firestone's top management and the
                    company's organizational structure," Mr. Kaizaki
                    told Nikkei Business, referring to how he will
                    respond to the tire debacle.

                    A Bridgestone spokesman in Japan didn't dispute
                    the basic contents of the interview, but said Mr.
                    Kaizaki didn't say "directly" that Mr. Ono would be
                    asked to leave.

                    "Mr. Kaizaki said he wants to 'decide on a new
                    person and on Bridgestone/Firestone's personnel
                    and structure,' " said chief Bridgestone spokesman
                    Taiji Nishijima. "I can't deny the nuance of his statement," Mr. Nishijima
                    said, adding, "there has been no decision yet regarding management" at

                    A Bridgestone/Firestone spokesman said Mr. Ono wasn't available to
                    comment. Mr. Ono, who also serves as executive vice president of
                    Bridgestone itself, said at congressional hearings last month that he
                    accepted personal responsibility for the recall.

                    Mr. Ono, 63 years old, joined Bridgestone in 1959 as section
                    manager/electrical engineer only a month after graduating from
                    Kumamoto University in Japan. He moved to the U.S. unit in 1991. In
                    1993, he was named the unit's chief executive, succeeding Mr. Kaizaki in
                    that post, and three years later was named chairman. During his
                    tenure, the Firestone brand, severely damaged in the wake of an earlier
                    recall of 14.5 million Firestone tires in 1978, was revitalized with
                    expanded dealer outlets and a re-entry into Indy car racing.

                    Based on past practice at the company, it is considered most likely that
                    the person who succeeds Mr. Ono will come from the parent company in
                    Japan. However, one former Firestone executive believes the tire
                    maker's dire situation may prompt the company to try something
                    radically different, possibly promoting an American manager. The top
                    U.S. executive currently at the U.S. unit is John Lampe, executive vice
                    president, who is well-respected in the tire industry.

                    Another option might be promoting Shuichi Ishibashi, vice president of
                    marketing for the U.S. unit. Mr. Ishibashi is fluent in English, already
                    established at the company's U.S. subsidiary and widely credited with
                    helping expand Firestone's market share in recent years. But some
                    consider him, at 46 years old, too young for the job.

                    Mr. Ishibashi didn't respond to a request for comment. A company
                    spokesman said Mr. Lampe wasn't available to comment.

                    Firestone said Monday that it produced about 27.5 million Steeltex tires
                    between 1991 and 2000 at five of the company's manufacturing plants
                    in the U.S. and Canada. A company spokeswoman said Firestone isn't
                    sure whether the latest complaints concern tires produced in a particular
                    location or during a specific timeframe. "NHTSA hasn't given us a copy
                    of the complaints," said the spokeswoman.

                    The report of the management shake-up coincided with new signs of
                    trouble for Bridgestone/Firestone, as U.S. federal regulators said they
                    are investigating another brand of the company's tires used on Ford
                    and General Motors Corp. sport-utility vehicles, pickups and vans. The
                    National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said last week that it had
                    received 169 complaints involving Firestone Steeltex tires. The
                    complaints included eight crashes, 12 injuries and two fatalities.

                    Bridgestone's shares have lost about half their value since just before
                    the recall was announced two months ago. The stock fell 20 yen to
                    1,280 yen in Tokyo Monday.

                    -- Timothy Aeppel in Pittsburgh contributed to this article.

                    Write to Todd Zaun at and Norihiko Shirouzu at