Michael Woodford, the former CEO of endoscopy giant Olympus Corp. (TYO:7733) fired for blowing the whistle on a massive accounting scandal, resigned his seat on the board and called for the wholesale ouster of his former colleagues
Woodford has been a busy man lately, speaking with authorities in Japan, the U.S. and the U.K. about the scandal. Olympus has admitted to using mergers and acquisitions to conceal billions of dollars of investment losses. In one case the company shelled out $687 million in fees to dummy consulting firms.
Woodford was sacked two weeks after taking his desk in the corner office after he confronted the board about the scheme. Now he’s looking to assemble a coalition of stakeholders to wrest control of the company from its current managers, whom he accuses of being complicit in the scandal.
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The board "wrecked the company by siphoning off huge amounts of money on all this nonsense," Woodford said during a recent press conference. "The directors know that they will have to leave to bring credibility back to the board."
Saying his resignation "allows me to talk to all parties at Olympus," Woodford told Bloomberg that he’s committed to resurrecting the company. Olympus shares are down nearly 60 percent since Oct. 14, when the scandal first broke.
"I will come together with a new slate of directors," Woodford told the news service. "I remain completely committed to Olympus and, if the shareholders decide, very much want to return."
Olympus has a virtual corner on the world endoscopy market, with its $2.6 billion-a-year business accounting for a share of about 70 percent and high profit margins of about 17 percent. Preserving that operation is a priority, But the company faces a de-listing threat from Japanese securities regulators and is reviewing its corporate structure, perhaps with an eye toward jettisoning its under-performing camera unit.
That’s not the only probe under way both within and without the company. Olympus is conducting an investigation into its M&A deals and its accounting of them. Agents from Japan’s Securities & Exchange Surveillance Commission are on site a the company’s Tokyo headquarters conducting their own probe, and authorities in the U.K. and the U.S. FBI are also on the case.