Olympus board signals it will quit

Wed Dec 7, 2011 5:36am EST
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By Isabel Reynolds and Yoko Kubota

TOKYO (Reuters) - Olympus Corp's board signaled plans to quit over a $1.7 billion accounting fraud, but will likely pick a team of potential successors, triggering a battle for control of the Japanese firm with the former CEO who blew the whistle on the scandal.

At a news conference on Wednesday, Olympus said one director had resigned, others may follow, and the entire board could go once the firm submits its second-quarter earnings, due by December 14, and takes steps to put the disgraced company back on track.

An external investigative panel report, unveiled on Tuesday, concluded that several former executives spent 13 years running a complex scheme to hide huge investment losses off the company's balance sheet.

"Our corporate governance was severely criticized. As the representative of the company, I apologize sincerely," Olympus President Shuichi Takayama told reporters.

Ex-CEO Michael Woodford, fired in October after questioning murky M&A deals, is campaigning to return to head up the 92-year-old maker of cameras and endoscopes and has called for an extraordinary shareholders' meeting to pick a new board.


Takayama, who took over after the scandal broke, said the earliest such a meeting could be held was late-February, and the management wouldn't resign before then -- after picking its own slate of candidates.

"We are still considering the plan (for a new president) that we will submit ... We don't know what Mr. Woodford is thinking, but he has said he will pursue a proxy fight, so we think there will certainly be a proposal," Takayama said.   Continued...