Woodford resolved to pursue proxy fight but would rather avoid one

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

Former Olympus President and CEO Michael C. Woodford said Thursday that while he hopes to avoid a proxy fight over control of the company’s boardroom, such a move may be unavoidable as current President Shuichi Takayama seems unwilling to work with him.

“If (a proxy fight) can be avoided, I think it would be for the good of the company, and for the good of (Japan),” Woodford said during a news conference at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo. Woodford was fired as Olympus chief in October after blowing the whistle on the firm’s coverup of massive investment losses.

Woodford, visiting Japan this week, said he is willing to meet with Takayama and seek ways the two can work together to solve the company’s serious financial and corporate governance problems, and to ensure it survives the accounting scandal.

According to the revised earnings reports Olympus submitted Wednesday, the company posted a net loss of ¥32.33 billion for the April to September half-year.

Woodford said that he is available to meet with Takayama “24 hours a day,” but that his efforts to set up an appointment with the Olympus chief so far have been in vain. At a separate news conference Thursday, Takayama said he has not been able to arrange a get-together with Woodford due to scheduling conflicts.

Woodford, however, claimed that “(Takayama) doesn’t want to meet with me. That tells you he wants to go down a certain course,” a possible hint that he anticipates a proxy fight for control of the company’s boardroom may be inevitable.

Asked if he expects to win a potential proxy fight, Woodford said he will be “fully prepared” and has a “realistic chance” of seizing control of the firm, noting he has already drawn up a list of the new directors he would install.

But he conceded that if Olympus’ current board decides to increase shares in the company by issuing new stock through a third-party allotment, existing shareholders’ rights would be diluted and his chances of prevailing would take a hit.