10. Colbert Matsumoto

October, 2004

Age: 51
Title: Chairman, Island Insurance Co.
Nickname: The Standard Bearer

Power Surge: In 1997, Matsumoto, then a well-respected but relatively unknown attorney, was appointed master of Bishop Estate, tasked with the job of sorting through the powerful organization’s tangled finances and Byzantine corporate structure. The job, his first experience in the public spotlight, brought him eyeball to eyeball with some of the state’s most feared enforcers. But the unpretentious local boy from Lanai prevailed, authoring a scathing 120-page report released later that year. Among his recommendations was the abolition of the sacrosanct lead-trustee system (individual trustees handling specific areas of business), which brought in millions of dollars but created fiefdoms and chicanery within the organization. Just as quickly and silently as he arrived, Matsumoto stepped back off stage after his report was released and implemented, a job well done.

Power Play: In 2003, Matsumoto came to the rescue of the financially troubled Japanese Cultural Center, which was days away from closure. He led an unprecedented effort that raised $9 million in 45 days from 6,000 donors. People are still shaking their heads in disbelief.

Personal Voltage: Matsumoto is at once an archetype and a prototype, epitomizing both how Hawaii business used to be done in the past and how it should be done in the future. For older Islanders, the plantation-raised Japanese American’s quiet, effective manner is reminiscent of the 442nd generation’s style of leadership. For younger leaders, Matsumoto’s combination of brains, balls and integrity is an inspiration.

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Hawaii Business magazine