The relationship between Peter Drucker and Masatoshi Ito started in a client-consultant mode. It didn’t take long however, for the two to discover a common core of shared values. The friendship that resulted endured for more than three decades and had a significant impact on the Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management.

Ito is founder and honorary chairman of the Seven & i Holdings, the second largest retailing organization in the world. He built the company from a small apparel store in Tokyo into a corporation with annual revenues of more than $28 billion.

In the early years of his relationship with Dr. Drucker, the two would connect in America or Japan and spend long evenings discussing the world economy, the Japanese economy, and the direction in which Mr. Ito should be planning. “He credits me, quite undeservedly, with a lot of his success,” said Dr. Drucker.

At the time, Seven & i Holdings was organized as individual companies, each with its own area of focus. Drucker’s advice: avoid too much expansion, keep each company large enough to have its own management and be autonomous. Mr. Ito listened: Today, Seven & i Holdings comprises more than 18,000 7-Eleven stores in Japan; 8,300 in North America; and 1,000 other department stores, restaurants, specialty shops, supermarkets, and superstores.

According to Peter Ducker, Mr. Ito is “one of the world’s outstanding entrepreneurs and business builders.” A major supporter of the Drucker School, Mr. Ito donated $23 million to build its current facility and realize its strategic plans. His son Junro carries on the legacy: he earned a Drucker MBA in 1989 and is an active member of the Drucker Alumni Association In Japan.