Ousted Olympus CEO Michael Woodford Tells All
Last year, Michael Woodford, the first non-Japanese to become the CEO of Olympus, confronted Japanese Olympus executives and board members over questionable deals and was then promptly dismissed by the board. He then went to the press, and the ensuring firestorm has seen arrests of Olympus' previous CEO (among others) and a US$10 million lost blamed on the accounting scandal.
Bloomberg Businessweek has a gripping read on Woodford's account of the scandal, the plot reads like a script right out of a boardroom drama. The details revealed are rich in significance:
Finally, at a Tuesday lunch meeting with Kikukawa and Group President Hisashi Mori—where Woodford noticed that while the two Japanese men had sumptuous plates of sushi before them, he was served a tuna sandwich—Woodford said the allegations were serious and asked: How was it possible that as the “president of the company, traveling the world, meeting with shareholders, that I could not be aware of this?”
Kikukawa’s neck muscles bulged, Woodford recalls. “I gave instructions that you should not be told,” he said. “You’re the president, yes, but this is a domestic issue.”
And even the criminal underworld is weaved in. When Woodford is fired:
Woodford knew he had to leave Japan. Sankei, one of Japan’s largest and most reputable newspapers, was also reporting that the missing Olympus funds were linked to Japanese organized crime. Additionally, Jake Adelstein, author of the book Tokyo Vice and the underworld reporter for Yomiuri, another major Japanese newspaper, told Woodford that he had heard Woodford’s life was in danger. “We didn’t know where this money had gone, or why they were so desperate to cover it up,” Woodford said. “How a corporation like Olympus got into this position is a great tragedy.”
The news has been covered extensively before, but never has Woodford's point of view been so thoroughly covered, and the story is well worth a read. Check it out over at Bloomberg Businessweek: The Story Behind the Olympus Scandal.