News / Asia

Fired Olympus CEO Confronts Colleagues Who Ousted Him

Former Olympus CEO and President Michael Woodford talks to reporters in Tokyo, Japan November 25, 2011
Former Olympus CEO and President Michael Woodford talks to reporters in Tokyo, Japan November 25, 2011

A foreign chief executive who was fired by a major Japanese corporation after he publicized questionable acquisitions authorized by his fellow board members, says he would consider returning to the helm, if asked. Michael Woodford confronted the board of directors of camera and endoscope maker Olympus on Friday. The company is now the subject of investigations by authorities in Japan and abroad.

Just prior to Friday's board meeting, three executives of Olympus, including the company's former chairman, quit as directors.

After initially defending the actions of the executives, Olympus later acknowledged the trio colluded for two decades to hide losses from investors using inflated takeover costs.

Former Olympus CEO and President Michael Woodford, who remains a director, says Friday's board meeting "was a lot less tense" than he expected because the three executives did not attend.

"They wrecked the company by siphoning off money on all of this nonsense," Woodford said.

He says other board members have also been "contaminated" by the scandal.

"The directors know that they will have to leave to bring credibility and trust back to the board," he noted. "And if it's led by me or an eminent Japanese businessman then the company can move forward and be stronger. And that decision depends on the shareholders choosing it and me saying yes."

Some prominent overseas investors in the company have called for the British-born Woodford to be reinstated and for the removal of Olympus officials who were involved in the deals made before he became the company's president and CEO.

Woodford returned to Japan this week to speak with public investigators looking into the scandal.

Woodford recounted his dramatic dismissal in a Tokyo news conference Friday, noting how he was immediately asked to turn in his computer, mobile phones, and apartment keys and told to take a bus to the airport. He says he left Japan the same day, fearing for his safety.

But before leaving Tokyo, Woodford handed copies of internal company documents to a Financial Times reporter detailing the series of unusual huge payments to obscure entities that were made prior to him running Olympus.  

Woodford, who rose through the ranks of the company over a 30-year-period, says he is speaking out on behalf of the 45,000 employees of Olympus. He says the company can survive if its sticks to its core businesses because its engineering, research, development and manufacturing departments are strong.

Woodford says delisting the 92-year-old company from the Tokyo Stock Exchange would be a mistake unless it fails to submit its accounts by a December 14 deadline set by regulators, or a link to organized crime is proven.

Since the scandal erupted, Olympus' stock has wildly fluctuated.

Reports say the total investment losses from the questionable Olympus deals, dating back to the 1990's, may total as much as $1.3 billion.

The company set up an independent committee to investigate the accounts. It reported this week it uncovered no evidence of criminal activity. Others, including Woodford, say a forensic inspection of the company's books is needed before a conclusion can be reached.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

Guatemala Mudslide Death Toll Rises to 86

Death toll is expected to continue to rise as emergency crews dig through tons of earth for an estimated 350 people still missing More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

Debris Found in Search for Missing Ship

Objects located Sunday have not yet been confirmed to be from the 240 meter container ship, El Faro, which disappeared in the eye of Hurricane Joaquin, according to US Coast Guard More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs