TOKYO — Julie Hamp, the global communications executive who broke the glass ceiling at Toyota Motor Corp. only to be arrested in Japan and sent to the U.S., is back at the world’s biggest automaker, this time as a special media adviser to President Akio Toyoda.
In 2015, Hamp was jailed for 20 days but never charged after a family member had allegedly mailed Oxycodone pills to her to alleviate knee pain. Japanese media reported at the time that prosecutors found little criminal intent in the case.
Hamp returned to Toyota Motor Corp. effective June 20, Toyota North America said in an internal announcement seen by Automotive News. She will support Yumi Otsuka, chief sustainability officer, and report directly to Chief Communications Officer Jun Nagata and Chris Reynolds, executive vice president of corporate resources at Toyota Motor North America.
She will also be “senior media adviser” to the company’s global boss, Toyoda.
“In this role, Julie will work with the TMC President’s office to develop communications strategies and messages across all forms of media, including TMC’s owned media, to help achieve business objectives,” Toyoda said in the June 21 corporate notice.
It wasn't immediately clear whether Hamp will be based in the U.S., Japan or elsewhere.
Toyoda made waves in April 2015 by appointing Hamp as the Japanese juggernaut’s first female senior executive — an American no less — to oversee global communications from Toyota City. It was a part of a major diversification drive to inject fresh perspective into the company at a time when Toyoda saw the need to better relate to overseas markets amid globalization.
But her tenure was cut short just months later, with her bombshell June 18 arrest for suspected violations of Japan’s drug laws. Her shocking arrest at the Tokyo hotel where she was still staying until she settled in sent shock waves through Japan’s international business community.
Toyoda, who invited Hamp to Japan as the company’s first chief communications officer, defended her at an emergency press conference the following day saying: “In addition to being a close friend of mine, Julie Hamp is an invaluable member of Toyota’s team.”
While in jail, she resigned her post at the company.
On July 8 — after the 20-day lockup — Hamp was released from custody without being formally charged of any crime and returned to the U.S.
Like the arrest of former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn years later, Hamp’s case shocked the auto industry and shined a light on some of the peculiarities of Japan-style law and order.
20 years at GM
Hamp started her career in the automotive world giving factory tours at General Motors’ now-defunct Buick City plant in Flint, Mich., and spent 20 years at GM. She then went on to become the top PR exec at PepsiCo Inc. before first joining Toyota on its North American team in June 2012.
Back in the U.S. following her arrest in Japan, Hamp quickly rebuilt her career.
She took advisory roles at Finsbury and the Hawksbill Group, and in 2019 she was appointed chairman of Motus One, the fleet-management company.
Japan has strict drug laws that often are at odds with those of the U.S. It is even illegal to bring in some over-the-counter drugs common in the U.S., such as certain allergy medicines.