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Ex-Olympus CEO Woodford to oppose board appointments

Michael Woodford: Dismissal
Cover of Michael Woodford’s “Dismissal”

TOKYO (TR) – Michael Woodford, former president of troubled Olympus Corp., said that he will vote against the company’s proposed candidates for chairman and president at an extraordinary shareholders meeting to be held on Friday.

Speaking at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan on Thursday, the 51-year-old British national, who last year widely distributed evidence that unraveled a $1.7 billion financial cover-up by the Japanese camera maker, said that in spite of the significance of the scandal nothing has fundamentally changed at the company and it is business as usual.

“The Olympus scandal could have been an opportunity for them to get it right,” said Woodford, who is a shareholder in the company. “But all they’ve done is made it worse.”

Olympus will seek approval to appoint Hiroyuki Sasa, current chief of marketing for medical systems, as president and Yasuyuki Kimoto, a former executive at Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, as chairman. Nine other directorial positions are also scheduled to be confirmed.

Of the two top appointments, Woodford called into question their experience and past relationships, saying that Sasa lacks international experience and Kimoto will maintain loyalty to Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, which is the largest creditor of Olympus.

Woodford said last year that his firing, which occurred on October 14, came after he began raising questions about several acquisitions, including the $687 million fee the company paid to a little-known adviser in its $2 billion acquisition of U.K. medical equipment company Gyrus Group Plc. in 2008.

In November, three of Olympus’s top executives formally resigned as board members, including former Chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, former Executive Vice President Hisashi Mori, and corporate auditor Hideo Yamada.

Despite initially denying any wrongdoing, Olympus admitted to the cover-up. Seven executives, including Kikukawa, Mori, and Yamada, were arrested in February.

Olympus was slapped with a $130,000 fine in January for falsifying its books and concealing losses. That same month, Woodford abandoned his attempt to return to head the company, citing the toll it was taking on his family.

The company has lost roughly half of its market value since Woodford went public with his claims.

On April 12, Hasegawa Publishing released “Dismissal,” a book authored by Woodford that details his saga.

Despite the problems of the last seven months, Woodford has no intentions of abandoning Japan. “I have great fondness and affection for this country,” he said, adding that he would like to return as a non-executive director at a company.