Japan’s disgraced Olympus Corp said on Thursday it would consider reinstating Michael Woodford, the British chief executive it sacked two months ago and who blew the whistle on a fraud that has left it weakened and in need of fresh capital.
Woodford’s return would mark a dramatic climb-down by the existing board of Olympus, which had unanimously fired him in October after he had queried the firm’s dubious book-keeping. The firm later admitted to uncovering a $1.7 billion fraud.
But there remained serious doubts whether Woodford would indeed be chosen against other candidates for his old job.
Takayama, currently the most senior executive after several resignations since Woodford’s departure, said he had no plans to meet the Englishman, who some big Japanese shareholders and lenders privately oppose, according to a banking source.
Takayama has said that he and fellow directors will resign soon, to make way for an entirely new board to be elected by shareholders at a meeting to be held in March or April, and that the board wants to choose its successors before it quits.
The firm, whose main income-earner is its very profitable endoscope business, avoided automatic delisting from the Tokyo Stock Exchange by meeting Wednesday’s deadline for producing its overdue second-quarter accounts, giving some initial relief to investors who had feared it might miss the deadline.
However, the 92-year-old firm can still be delisted if the exchange believes the accounting deceit was grave enough.