Sacked Olympus chief takes his claims to the SFO


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Michael Woodford, the chief executive fired by Olympus after just two weeks in the post, told the company yesterday that he "welcomed" its threat of legal action, as he passed crucial documents to the Serious Fraud Office.

The first foreign chief executive of the Japanese precision equipment maker said he was fired after raising "serious governance concerns". He added that it was "inexplicable, incredible that a massive Nikkei-listed company could carry on this way". Olympus's share price, which fell by more than 17 per cent on Friday, dipped a further 24 per cent in Tokyo yesterday.

Mr Woodford, a Briton who had worked at the company for 30 years, was appointed chief executive at the start of October after six months as president. He was ousted on Friday, with the company blaming a culture clash. He told i that Olympus was run as a "total emperor system" and he was shocked by the events of his short-lived reign.

He yesterday passed documents, including a series of letters he had written to the board, and a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers investigating a deal that Olympus secured in 2008, to the SFO. The British agency was brought in because most of the deal was paid through Olympus Finance UK. The SFO declined to comment.

Mr Woodford said his departure was not prompted by his lack of Japanese-style management but by a series of letters he wrote raising concerns about four deals secured by Olympus. He flew back to the UK at the weekend saying he feared for his personal safety.

Olympus said yesterday that it was considering legal action against Mr Woodford for disclosing confidential information. But Mr Woodford was bullish, saying: "I welcome it. Come to the High Court. There is a clear public interest in this case."

The last letter, dated 11 October, was sent to chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa calling for his resignation, along with that of executive vice-president Hisashi Mori, following revelations about the four takeovers. Mr Woodford said they should face the consequences of what had taken place which was "a shameful saga by any stretch of the imagination".