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Ex-Olympus chief gives up CEO bid

Former Olympus president Michael Woodford meets with reporters upon his arrival at Narita airport.

Story highlights

  • NEW: Former CEO plans to file a wrongful termination lawsuit against Olympus
  • Michael Woodford has abandoned his bid to retake the reins of the beleaguered firm
  • The former Olympus CEO turned whistleblower on a $1.7 billion company cover-up
  • Woodford: Fight has "been traumatizing for all those around me, especially my family"

Michael Woodford, the former Olympus CEO who turned whistleblower on a $1.7 billion company cover-up after his October ouster, has abandoned his bid to retake the reins of the beleaguered firm.

He does, however, plan to file a lawsuit against his former employer for wrongful termination. "I will most definitely be suing Olympus," Woodford said Friday at a press conference at the Foreign Correspondent's Club in Tokyo.

The British executive, who spent 30 years with Olympus before he was named the first foreign president of the Japanese camera and medical instruments maker in April, said he is abandoning his proxy fight due to the stress on his family and the lack of support among Japanese institutional shareholders.

"The last 12 weeks have been the most emotionally demanding and challenging period in my entire life," Woodford said in a statement Friday. "The brutal way I was dismissed as President on 14 October, and the subsequent lies and denials, have been traumatizing for all those around me, especially my family."

Woodford was fired after he attempted to force out Chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa over exorbitant payments for mergers and acquisitions deals and fees. Kikukawa has since resigned, and a third-party panel analyzing the company books detailed how the company hid losses on bad investments from regulators and company shareholders dating back to the 1990s.

The scathing December 7 panel report that suggested the Japanese company "should remove its malignant cancer ... the management was rotten to the core, and infected those around it."

    After the Woodford went to the press about the cover-up in October, the company's shares were pounded -- at one point, the company lost more than 75% of its share value.

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    "It´s been a frightening period for my wife, who has suffered a lot and every night still wakes screaming in a trance and it takes several minutes to calm her," Woodford wrote. "I cannot put her through any more anguish."

    Woodford has led a very public campaign to get his former job back and has lobbied for the immediate resignation or the current Olympus board. "The fact that such a situation can exist despite the explicit findings of the third-party committee is depressing and totally disorientating to those looking in on Japan from the outside," Woodford said.

        Olympus scandal

      • A customer looks at the Olympus booth at a camera shop in Tokyo on November 10.

        When the ex-CEO of Olympus talked about the saga that had befallen the Japanese company, the story he spun was less Harvard Business Review and more Pulp Fiction.
      • Olympus president Shuichi Takayama (L) bows his head as he announces that the company will launch a special committee to weigh the responsibility of current and former executives implicated in the long-running coverup of investment losses at a press conference in Tokyo on December 7

        Japanese prosecutors arrested seven men, including former Olympus Corp. Chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, for their alleged involvement in a massive $1.7 billion accounting fraud at the Japanese camera and medical equipment maker.
      • Investigators enter the headquarter of Olympus in Tokyo on December 21, 2011.

        The Japanese authorities on Wednesday raided offices of Olympus, the camera and medical instruments maker that is embroiled in a vast accounting scandal, the company said.
      • A customer checks a camera of Japanese optical giant Olympus at a Tokyo camera shop on October 27, 2011.

        The drama surrounding Olympus and cover-up of $1.7 billion in losses dialed down a notch as the company met a December 14 deadline to refile its earnings statements for the past five years.
      • Former Olympus president Micahel Woodford arrives at a seminar in Tokyo on November 24.

        Shares of scandal-plagued Olympus rallied after three board members of the Japanese camera maker quit ahead of today's meeting with a company ex-CEO turned whistleblower.