Photo/IllutrationThe Johnny & Associates Inc. building in Tokyo’s Minato Ward (Keita Mano)

  • Photo/Illustraion

The founder and face of leading talent agency Johnny & Associates Inc. died July 9 in Tokyo at the age of 87.

Johnny Kitagawa, who was president of the company that represented major idol groups such as SMAP and Shonentai, suffered from a stroke and died at hospital.

His real name was Hiromu Kitagawa.

The memorial service and funeral will be attended only by relatives and close friends and associates.

An official farewell ceremony is also being planned.

Kitagawa was born in Los Angeles in 1931. During his teens, he learned the basics of show business as an interpreter for "diva of the Showa Era" Hibari Misora (1937-1989) when she performed in the city.

Later in life in Japan, Kitagawa recruited boys as entertainment talents from a baseball team named "Johnnies" that he coached.

He established the talent agency in 1962, managing an idol group also named "Johnnies."

The entertainment mogul went on to produce a number of popular idols and groups in the 1970s and '80s, including singers Hiromi Go, Masahiko Kondo and Toshihiko Tahara, as well as boy groups Four Leaves and Hikaru Genji.

The agency became a major fixture in the entertainment industry, responsible for groups that found widespread fame with consecutive hits songs, such as SMAP, Tokio, V6 and Arashi.