Olympus ex-CEO Woodford to attend board meeting

Tue Nov 22, 2011 5:50pm EST
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By Alexander Smith and Lisa Twaronite

TOKYO/LONDON (Reuters) - The sacked chief executive of Japan's disgraced Olympus Corp says he has accepted an invitation to attend the company's board meeting this week, which could be a hopeful sign for investors who want him to return and lead a clean-up of the firm.

Olympus shares jumped 20 percent to 869 yen Tuesday as traders speculated the company might avoid being delisted from the Tokyo Stock Exchange, despite being engulfed in an accounting scandal.

Olympus, a maker of cameras and medical equipment, is under investigation by regulators, prosecutors and organised-crime police. The scandal broke when CEO-turned-whistleblower Michael Woodford publicly questioned the company's accounts after being fired last month.

"I was invited to the board meeting Friday by Olympus and welcome the opportunity of going to Japan," Woodford, a Briton, told Reuters in London on the eve of his departure for Tokyo.

The trip will be his first to Olympus headquarters since his sacking at a board meeting just over five weeks ago.

Woodford has been cast by two major foreign shareholders as the best man to lead a clean-up of the 92-year-old company, which has lost about 65 percent of its market value since he went public with his concerns about improper accounting.

Goldman Sachs is now the second-biggest shareholder in Olympus, a public filing showed Tuesday. The Wall Street bank has a 6.67 percent stake, second in size to Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group's 7.61 percent holding.

Goldman spokesman Michael DuVally said the bank bought Olympus shares from clients in the normal course of business as a market maker and was not making a strategic investment.   Continued...