Ex-Olympus CEO eyes ‘surprise’ at shareholders’ meeting

Kyodo

Michael C. Woodford, former president and chief executive officer of Olympus Corp., said Monday he is planning to launch a “surprise” action at an extraordinary shareholders’ meeting of the camera and medical equipment manufacturer slated for April 20, opposing a proposed new management lineup.

“I’ll announce that on the day. I’m not going to do it beforehand. It will be a surprise,” Woodford said in an interview. “It’s going to be an interesting meeting.”

Woodford, who blew the whistle on murky acquisition deals by Olympus, including the 2008 buyout of British medical company Gyrus Group PLC, after he was dismissed from his post last October, said he plans to visit Tokyo ahead of the Japanese release April 16 of his memoirs on the accounting scandal.

He plans to stay in the country to attend the shareholders’ meeting.

Olympus, which has been mired in the loss coverup scandal, announced in February it has decided to appoint Executive Officer Hiroyuki Sasa as the next president and have Yasuyuki Kimoto, former senior managing director of Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp., serve as chairman.

Woodford is against the proposed new board members mainly because Kimoto is supposed to take the key post.

The new management team will be “controlled by the bank,” he said. “That’s the main point.”

“What does he understand about a health care and medical business?” the 51-year-old Briton asked. “The bank should not be running and controlling the company.”

Saying that Japanese institutional shareholders such as banks and life insurance firms are silent and have “incestuous” relationships with the companies with which they have cross-shareholding ties, Woodford said he is “very pessimistic about Japan.”