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Definition of ZAIBATSU
: a powerful financial and industrial conglomerate of Japan
Origin of ZAIBATSU
Japanese zai money, wealth + batsu clique, clan
First Known Use: 1947
Large capitalist enterprises of pre-World War II Japan, similar to cartels or trusts but usually organized around a single family. One zaibatsu might operate companies in many areas of economic importance; all zaibatsu owned their own banks, which they used as a means for mobilizing capital. After the war the zaibatsu were dissolved: stock owned by the parent companies was put up for sale and individual companies were freed from the control of parent companies. After the signing of the peace treaty in 1951, many companies began associating into what became known as enterprise groups; these differed from zaibatsu primarily in the informal manner that characterized policy coordination and in the limited degree of financial interdependency between member companies. Modern-day keiretsu are similar.