Takayama vows to stay at Olympus helm until late April

by Minoru Matsutani

Staff Writer

Olympus Corp. President Shuichi Takayama, one of the defendants in a suit over the firm’s massive hidden losses, said Wednesday he will stay at his post until the second half of April, when the company will hold a shareholders’ meeting.

Takayama’s announcement came as the camera and endoscope maker becomes involved in multiple lawsuits.

On Tuesday, an Olympus shareholder sued 14 board members who sacked whistle-blowing British former chief executive Michael C. Woodford.

The shareholder, a man living in Nara Prefecture who has declined to be named, is demanding that the executives pay Olympus ¥1.34 billion for costs resulting from Woodford’s firing, his lawyer said.

Meanwhile, Olympus is suing 24 former and current executives and auditors in two separate lawsuits, demanding they pay damages caused by the coverup of massive losses.

At a news conference in Tokyo on Wednesday, Takayama explained why he is staying atop the company: “I would like to make sure the handover (of presidential duties) to the new administration goes smoothly. I would also like to perform my duties in upcoming business decisions from now until the shareholders’ meeting.”

Olympus is demanding that Takayama pay up to ¥500 million in a lawsuit that also names 18 other current and former executives. He said he will adhere to whatever the courts rule he must pay.

“I didn’t know anything (about the firm hiding massive losses for nearly two decades),” Takayama claimed. “But I accept the result (of being targeted by litigation) and thus will clarify (my responsibility) in court.”

In one of the suits, filed Tuesday, Olympus said it is seeking up to a total of ¥1 billion in damages from five current and former auditors for losses associated with the accounting fraud.

In the other suit, filed Jan. 8, Olympus is demanding that 19 former and current executives, including Takayama and former President and Chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, pay a combined ¥3.61 billion in compensation for the losses that were covered up as well as scandal-related losses.

A third-party investigative panel, set up by Olympus and composed mainly of lawyers, estimates the coverup caused ¥85.9 billion in losses, including illegal dividends that were paid even though there was no distributable profit.

The defendants will not be allowed any access to records related to the suits, Takayama said. They will not be involved in any decisions over how Olympus proceeds regarding the litigation, he added.

Takayama meanwhile denied media reports that Olympus is in talks with several companies on an equity alliance, saying, “We are not in talks with any companies.”

Information from Kyodo added