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Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012

Woodford ends fight to lead Olympus

Ousted CEO says family comes first, vows to sue


Staff writer

Former Olympus Corp. President and CEO Michael C. Woodford said Friday in Tokyo he will give up his proxy fight to regain the top job in the medical equipment and camera maker because of lack of support from Japanese shareholders and trauma suffered by his family.

Woodford will also "most definitely" sue Olympus over what he said was the firm's wrongful dismissal of him as president, he told journalists at the Japan National Press Club.

"I thought, perhaps very naively, Japanese institutional investors would speak out" after a third-party report Dec. 6 suggesting all Olympus executives must be changed, Woodford said. "But (Olympus shareholders) didn't say a word of criticism."

The two largest shareholders of Olympus are Nippon Life Insurance Co., with 8.26 percent, and Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd., with 4.89 percent, as of last March. Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. had 3.07 percent and medical device maker Terumo Corp., based in Tokyo, had 2.51 percent.

Woodford asked such shareholders, creditors and other stakeholders for support. He said Sumitomo Mitsui Banking told him it couldn't meet with him because the management reform committee, a third-party panel set up by Olympus, is in the midst of discussing a way to reform the company.

A spokesman for Nippon Life told The Japan Times it will wait for the committee to come up with ideas on how to reform Olympus. He avoided clarifying the insurer's position regarding the scandal-tainted company.

Woodford said his wife has asked him not to continue his high-profile fight against top Olympus executives.

When he told her that Olympus President Shuichi Takayama and other executives have not stepped down and Japanese shareholders did not say anything about it, "my wife told me, 'Please don't do it. Don't make (yourself) and (your) family go through any more. It's without purpose.' "

Olympus is being probed by Japanese police, prosecutors and regulators as well as U.S. and British authorities over huge hidden losses spanning several years.

An investigative third-party panel set up by Olympus said in December the firm concealed ¥117.7 billion in investment losses dating back to the 1990s.

It is unclear if the Tokyo Stock Exchange will delist Olympus.

Olympus fired Woodford after he questioned its dubious transactions, which were later shown as a tactic to hide massive losses on 1990s securities investments.

Olympus executives said Woodford was fired because of his "selfish management style."



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