Ex-Olympus boss to face the board that ousted him

Michael Woodford will demand that all the directors resign in wake of accounting scandal
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The Independent Online

The former Olympus chief executive, Michael Woodford, will today come face-to-face with the board that ousted him and demand they all resign to prevent further damage to the company.

The Briton, who was fired only two weeks after his appointment as chief executive of the precision equipment and camera group, said: "I want to take the opportunity to look the directors in the eye and tell them what I think is best for the company."

He said the game was up: "Do the decent thing; stop damaging the company. Don't look for self-interest, look for the 45,000 people." He added: "Have some shame, have some dignity, that's what I want to tell them."

Shuichi Takayama, the current president of Olympus, said the management team "will be ready to stand aside once Olympus is on track for recovery". Yet, it seemed unlikely that the whole board would be immediately replaced. The president said: "If we change the management in this situation, we cannot take a prompt action for the piled-up subjects, therefore we cannot overcome the imminent risk facing us." He admitted that after the group revealed it had been hiding losses for decades, Olympus and its stakeholders had been left "in confusion". Mr Takayama added that the company could "lose the credibility in the world at once".

Yesterday, several of the executives behind the move to oust Mr Woodford resigned fully from the company. Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, former president and chairman of Olympus, had resigned last month but retained a position at the group, as did vice president Hisashi Mori even though he had been fired. Olympus revealed it had received their resignation letters, as well as that of corporate auditor Hideo Yamada.

Mr Woodford flew into Japan on Wednesday for talks with the Tokyo Metropolitan Police, public prosecutors and the Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission. It was the first time he had returned to the country since he fled in fear for his safety after raising "serious governance concerns" over four transactions carried out by the company.

"The talks have passed all my expectations and it's very evident to me they are going to investigate this whole issue without bias and thoroughly, and that will include following the money flows in relation to all the transactions," he said.

Olympus president Mr Takayama said the steps to rehabilitate the company included a thorough investigation of the events around the "deferred posting of losses" and calling the managers to account.

The group will then reform the management "in a way that will be acceptable to stakeholders and which represents the best possible way to drive the company toward its future vision," Mr Takayama said. "Any defensiveness of the interests of the incumbent management team is not allowed."

The company admitted it was "on the verge" of being delisted from the Tokyo Stock Exchange after 62 years, because it has failed to publish its accounts. It has until 14 December to do so or will be removed from the market.