Woodford in bid to retake Olympus

Ex-CEO resigns from board to spark proxy vote

Kyodo

Former Olympus Corp. President Michael C. Woodford, who has called into question dubious acquisitions by the firm, submitted a letter of resignation Wednesday to the company, where he had remained a director, his lawyer said.

Woodford said at a press conference held later in the day in New York that he resigned from the Japanese camera and medical equipment maker to fight a proxy battle to come back as president of the firm.

“The reason that I’ve done it is that I believe it would be an opportunity for me to mobilize interested parties in Olympus and those shareholders who want real change,” he said.

“I believe I will be in a position to have an alternative slate of directors and it will be a classic proxy vote, so there will be choice there.”

He accused President Shuichi Takayama, who took the post in late October after the scandal broke, of overlooking the firm’s past handling of the acquisitions in his supervision of teams set up to enhance corporate governance and in selecting new management of the firm.

“I don’t want to leave the company in the hands of people who make judgments like that,” Woodford said. “This is an issue about governance.”

He said he is confident that the scandal-mired company can rebuild by focusing on core businesses once he returns to the board, referring to the excellence of its medical and other products.

“Olympus will survive. . . . If I have any involvement, Olympus will stay as a listed company,” he said. “Olympus can become a model of governance.”

The company said Thursday in Tokyo that it had accepted Woodford’s resignation and that it was effective the same day.

Woodford, 51, was dismissed from his post as president Oct. 14 after calling into question the company’s questionable acquisitions and massive advisory fees paid in connection with its acquisition in 2008 of British medical equipment maker Gyrus Group PLC.

On Nov. 8, Olympus admitted using funds for past acquisitions to hide latent losses on securities investments since the 1990s, reversing its earlier position that payments linked to the deals were “appropriate.”

On Nov. 24, former Olympus Chairman and President Tsuyoshi Kikukawa and former Executive Vice President Hisashi Mori resigned from the board while Hideo Yamada stepped down as corporate auditor amid allegations that all three were involved in the coverup.

Their resignations came after Woodford met the same day in Japan with authorities, including members of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission, over the issue.

Referring to his recent visit to Tokyo, Woodford said, “The most positive thing for me was the clear and explicit statement by the Japanese authorities that this scandal, this story would be one where every stone is turned.”

The FBI and other U.S. investigators Tuesday in New York interviewed Woodford for the second time as part of a probe into the coverup of investment losses related to the buyout of Gyrus.