Olympus ex-CEO campaigns to oust board, reclaim top job

NEW YORK/TOKYO - The former chief executive of disgraced Olympus Corp, Michael Woodford, launched a campaign on Thursday to oust the board of directors, reclaim his old job and bring in his own team to save the Japanese firm from a big accounting scandal.

Woodford, who blew the whistle on accounting tricks at Olympus after he was sacked in October, said he was putting together a team of candidates for a new board and talking to shareholders about replacing the current leadership, hopefully by February.

But the Englishman, who was a rare foreign CEO in Japan, denied he was considering an option to lead an overseas buyout of the 92-year-old maker of cameras and medical equipment.

"I'm not trying to get involved to sell Olympus to an American healthcare group or an overseas healthcare group. I don't want to be a part of that," he said in response to reporters' questions. He conceded he had been approached by several parties, but declined to speak to them.

"I wouldn't be part of that. I don't see that being feasible or attractive ... I just want Olympus to have a board which is trusted and respected and get on with running the company. I am quite Japanese in that sense," he said.

Woodford, speaking in New York where this week he met Federal Bureau of Investigations officials probing the Olympus scandal, said he had finally resigned from the Olympus board on Thursday in order to openly campaign for its removal.

He said he had spoken to some shareholders about options for a reconstituted board, and hoped Olympus would call a shareholders meeting to elect new directors by February, though he had yet to draw up his own team of directors.

"This won't be aggressive or hostile in any way," he said.

Woodford and the board, led by Olympus President Shuichi Takayama, face a battle to see who has more shareholder support, but the Englishman may face resistance from Japanese investors making up the bulk of the company's share register.

Some domestic shareholders believe he could have handled the affair less openly and aggressively.

"It's possible, but I don't think many Japanese investors would like Woodford to take over Olympus wholly," said Nanako Imazu, an analyst at CLSA in Tokyo.

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