Shamed Olympus under pressure to replace the board

Sacked British ex-Olympus boss Michael Woodford is desperate to rush back to the board and fix the mess its president bizarrely claimed was his fault.

In October, Woodford went public on the weird books of the business – that Olympus had been investing millions buying companies housed in the Cayman Islands that mysteriously vanished soon after.

Eventually Olympus had to own up to the biggest loss-hiding scandal in Japanese corporate history, but president Shuichi Takayama was, at the time, still confident it was Woodford what did the damage. At the time, he said: “If this secret information hadn’t been leaked there would have been no change in our corporate value”.

Now, according to the Wall Street Journal, Woodford wants to pressure Olympus into calling a shareholders meeting, and quick. Then he wants to discuss a different set of directors picked by managers. 

He said that a takeover is out of the question as it’s not the way things are done in Japan, so he won’t be talking to third parties to buy it out. Instead, he wants to revamp – read, fix – the management.

Previously, he and other shareholders voiced concerns about the management team’s ability to clean up the mess. Olympus still says Woodford’s style of management is what got him his pink slip and was nothing to do with unearthing the chaos.

Shares are still down. Some investors, reports the WSJ, think that the company is now owned by half foreign shareholders. That is crucial in kickstarting Woodford’s plans which aren’t the norm in Japan. One significant investor, says the WSJ, is seriously mulling over an alternative set of candidates for the board. 

We’ll have to wait and see which move Olympus takes. The company has a deadline for 14 December on its stock exchange to post the most recent earning results and will probably decide what to do after that. Woodford insists it must consider replacing the board as soon as that’s out of the way. If it doesn’t meet that deadline it risks becoming delisted on the Tokyo Stock Exchange

Meanwhile, investigators including Japan’s Financial Services Agency and the Tokyo Metropolitan Police are looking at Olympus’ books.

Olympus is adamant that it hasn’t funnelled any dosh into organised crime.