Despite five consecutive years of losses, and an uncertain outlook in a kimono market now one-sixth of its size in the 1970s, Sagami has found itself being hotly pursued by two private equity suitors. One of the firms, New Horizon Capital, has a long history of dealmaking and tendered an offer 10 per cent higher than Sagami’s average share price over the past three months. The other, four-year old Aspirant Group, has made only a handful of investments and is offering to pay 30 per cent less than Sagami’s average three-month price. But to the disbelief of some investors, and the dismay of corporate governance advocates, Sagami’s controlling shareholder — the recently merged supermarket and convenience store group FamilyMart Uny — favours the Aspirant deal. Yasushi Ando, New Horizon’s chief executive, says he cannot understand it. “The outside directors have a responsibility to select a better buyout offer,” he argues. “If this deal goes through, the corporate governance code would be rendered useless.” With shareholders becoming equally dismayed, the Sagami saga follows in a rich tradition of takeover rows in some of Japan’s oldest industries. Previous bid battles have centred on a wigmaker, a paper merchant, and the nation’s favourite brand of Worcestershire sauce.