Olympus shareholders plead to bring back Woodford

Olympus President Shuichi Takayama seems set in stone in his refusal to reappoint ex-CEO Michael Woodford, the man who blew open a decades-long losses cover-up, but the major shareholders think otherwise.

Takayama initially blamed Woodford for the Japanese camera maker’s downward spiral – claiming that if he had kept his nose out, Olympus would still be worth a yen or two. At the time, he was kind of missing the point: the problem wasn’t Woodford finding out. It was corporate scheming on a grand scale.

Since the scandal emerged, shares have plummetted to their lowest ever. Since Woodford left for, officially, management differences, stocks have crumbled by as much as 80 percent of their value. 

In a statement seen by the Wall Street Journal, Elaine Morrison of Baillie Gifford & Co. – who holds roughly four percent in Olympus – said: “What Olympus needs now is a thorough cleanup, and we believe Michael Woodford is the best man for the job.” Meanwhile, CIO at Harris

Associates LP David Herro, who also has four percent in the company, said Woodford must be “strongly considered” to return as CEO.

The second largest shareholder in Olympus, Southeastern Asset Management, wheeled out its principal Josh Shores, who didn’t name Woodford as a candidate for CEO, but arguable suggested it. Shores, says the WSJ, requested Woodford stay “involved” with Olympus.

He went on to say the next CEO should have “a sterling reputation and character woh is going to be accepted by institutions and investors inside Japan and outside of Japan as unassailable.”

Japan’s Financial Services Agency and the Tokyo Metropolitan Police are both investigating Olympus.

It has until 14 December to list its earnings or the company faces having its shares delisted from the Tokyo Stock Exchange.