THE NEWS WILL COME TO MANY AS A RELIEF. AND NO ONE IS MORE relieved than me. I will not be president for life of the FCCJ. “Touchons du bois,” as we say in French “touch wood” because I still have a few weeks.

Last month I wrote that since no competent successor had stepped forward, I feared I would be obliged to run for a fourth term.

In the interim, Lucy Birmingham has volunteered to run for president in the Club’s upcoming election. A director at large active on the current Board, a seasoned contributor to TIME and other reputable outlets, Lucy is better qualified than me to represent the FCCJ. Her Japanese is far superior. She is more diplomatic than me, and exponentially more charismatic. So I can retire in good conscience knowing FCCJ Members have the option to choose her to replace me.

Three years ago, the business and finances of our Club were headed toward disaster. Having previously served five years as Treasurer I could see this clearly. Convinced we had one last chance to put the Club back on a sustainable course, I ran for president in order to do that.

Three long years later, I cannot say the job is done. But we have overcome the inertia of endless disagreement to enact fundamental reforms that give the FCCJ a decent chance of long term survival.

Some claim I misrepresented the Club’s finances in order to create a sense of crisis. But you don’t need a forensic accountant to gauge who is telling the truth. Declining revenue from membership and F&B is a fact evident in our financial statements. With a history of antagonistically deadlocked Boards and rotating door management, could anyone credibly claim good governance over the long term? Has the past decade been a time of prosperity for other organizations in Japan or for journalists? Take a look at the condition of our carpets. And that’s what anyone can see.

Other grave deficiencies that became apparent to the Board could not be publicized without huge effort to amass evidence able to stand up in court. So we decided it was better to change the future than fight the past.

This much was clear to us. Journalism is the raison d’être of the FCCJ. F&B operations were developed to support journalism and not vice versa. Our labor costs were unsustainable. And, fundamentally, it makes no sense to have a rotating committee of foreign journalists manage a large hospitality operation. Not only is that not our business, it is madness.

It took over two years, but last fall we succeeded in outsourcing the FCCJ’s F&B operations. This will have a significantly positive impact on the Club’s finances, short and long term. Should a future Board be displeased with the current operator, they can be replaced. But it makes no sense to revert to the status quo ante.

In conjunction with outsourcing, to ensure our journalistic mission has appropriate legal stature in Japanese society, the Board also moved to secure public interest non profit (Koeki) status. Due to changing laws the decision could not be put off, and I would like to thank the many volunteers especially Yoshio Murakami whose heroic effort enabled us to submit our application last month.

To apply for whichever new status, general or public interest, we had to ratify new Articles of Association. This required the consent in a referendum of two thirds of Regular Members not just two thirds of voters, two thirds of those eligible. Thirty years ago a relatively non controversial measure failed to pass because the same hurdle was too high.

In this case, the clique that loudly opposes every reform tried to turn the referendum into a vote of confidence in our Board and their most zealous partisan went to the office to scrutinize every ballot. He must have been disappointed: 77.8 percent of eligible voters supported our initiative, while 8.7 percent heeded his call to vote “No.”

Incredibly, not even such a democratic landslide dissuades this clique. Unable to prevail at the ballot box they have launched three separate lawsuits, causing the Club to incur more than ¥2.5 million in legal bills from Sept. last year thru April. That’s roughly ¥1,250 from each Member’s pocket and counting.

Not to mention the distraction, which we have done our best to overcome. Staying focused until the last day of our term, the current Board has launched an initiative to give the FCCJ an online presence to support its public interest mission. And this month we will appoint a new General Manager.

Unfortunately. I have run out of space to thank all those whose support has been critical over the past three years. But I will squeeze in thanks to Treasurer Jonathan Soble. I am also out of time but that is a relief.

— Georges Baumgartner