Olympus fires British boss after just two weeks

 

The reign of Briton Michael Woodford as Olympus's first foreign chief executive has ended after two weeks, with the ailing Japanese electronics giant firing him after a culture clash.

It emerged yesterday that the board had unanimously agreed to dismiss Mr Woodford as chief executive and president over his management style. The news sent its shares crashing 17 per cent lower on the Nikkei.

The chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, who relinquished the roles when Mr Woodford was appointed, will return. He said yesterday: "We hoped that he could do things that would be difficult for a Japanese executive to do." But he said Mr Woodford, pictured, did not understand the need to reflect Olympus's management style built up over its 92-year history, "as well as Japanese culture".

Mr Kikukawa added: "He ignored our organisational structure and made decisions entirely on his own judgement." Olympus' grievances included Mr Woodford bypassing managers and giving orders directly to staff.

Mr Woodford has been stripped of his duties and demoted to director level. The extraordinary step came despite Mr Woodford spending 30 years at the company. He was appointed president in April, and then chief executive at the start of the month, at which time the Olympus board said that his progress since April had "exceeded" expectations.

Mr Woodford had been keen to slash costs to turn around a company whose operating profit fell 41 per cent to ¥35bn (£289m) in the year to March. He had previously been hailed for streamlining the European operations.

He said in an interview earlier this year: "When you change something, you close something or withdraw from something, you will get resistance based on my predecessor's decisions." He added: "I can be opinionated, loud-mouthed, strong-headed and direct."

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