Ex-Olympus CEO says willing but not begging to return

Fri Nov 25, 2011 4:38pm EST
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By Tim Kelly and Isabel Reynolds

TOKYO (Reuters) - The British ex-CEO of Japan's Olympus Corp emerged from a frosty meeting of directors on Friday convinced its board would eventually quit over an accounting scandal engulfing the firm, but he said he wasn't "begging" to return and clean up the mess.

Michael Woodford, still an Olympus director despite being fired as CEO and blowing the whistle over the scam, described the meeting as a tense encounter with no handshakes or apologies offered from the men who had sacked him barely a month ago.

Instead, he said, the board had agreed that the once-proud maker of cameras and medical equipment should strive to avoid being delisted from the Tokyo stock exchange, a sanction that would make the business more vulnerable to takeover.

"I just see a lot of suffering and misery for no gain," Woodford said of the prospect of a delisting.

"But we should have the investigation, it shouldn't be fudged," he told a news conference after the almost-two-hour meeting at Olympus's Tokyo headquarters, where he was mobbed by reporters and TV crews as he entered and left the building.

Woodford, back in Japan for the first time since fleeing the country right after his October 14 sacking, said there had been no talk at the meeting of him returning to his former post.

"I'm not begging to come back," he said, though he added that he was willing to do so if shareholders desired it. "I didn't volunteer for this, I'm not a hero," he added.

"There was a tension in the room, but there seemed to be an understanding that it was in no one's interest to raise the temperature," he said. "They didn't shake my hand and I didn't offer mine. We said good morning and goodbye."   Continued...