Exclusive: Olympus trail reaches elusive banker's Florida home

Sat Oct 22, 2011 12:01am EDT
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By Kevin Gray

BOCA RATON, Florida (Reuters) - A former Wall Street banker of Japanese descent has emerged as a key figure in the scandal engulfing Japanese blue-chip company Olympus Corp, according to documents provided by the company's ex-CEO.

The veteran banker, Hajime 'Jim' Sagawa, owned an obscure U.S. financial firm that was hired by the camera and endoscope maker five years ago to provide what later turned out to be stunningly expensive advice, a fee of $687 million, the documents show.

Reuters went to Sagawa's Florida home on Thursday. The ex-Nomura banker's wife, Ellen, said he was traveling and that he had done nothing wrong.

"My husband was on Wall Street for many years and was well-respected," she said after answering the door of their waterside two-story home in Boca Raton, north of Miami.

"My husband is clean as a whistle, I assure you," she said when asked about Sagawa's connection with the scandal which has wiped out half of Olympus's market value, outraged major shareholders and been drawn to the notice of securities regulators in Japan and the Serious Fraud Office in London.

She gave Reuters her husband's cell phone number but calls went to voicemail and he did not return them.

Former Olympus CEO Michael Woodford, barely a fortnight into his tenure in the top job, raised the alarm on the huge advisory fee after his sudden firing last week. The sum was equal to a third of the 2008 takeover deal to which it related -- compared with the 1-2 percent bankers usually charge.

Woodford, now in the UK, gave Reuters a copy of an independent inquiry into the fee, which was paid in relation to Olympus's $2.2 billion takeover of UK medical equipment firm Gyrus. He had commissioned the inquiry from accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) while he was still an executive.   Continued...

<p>A man is reflected in a sign bearing the logo of Japanese camera and endoscope maker Olympus Corp at the company's headquarters in Tokyo May 17, 2011. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao</p>