April 20 - Olympus shareholders approve new directors, but former CEO Michael Woodford says management's refusal to address his dismissal makes meeting illegitimate. Arnold Gay reports.
Olympus was hoping the approval of a new board would draw a line under its accounting scandal, but former CEO Mike Woodford was having none of that. Woodford says he may seek to have the meeting annulled, because Olympus management refused to answer a question about his dismissal. Woodford already had low expectations ahead of the meeting. (SOUNDBITE)(English) EX-OLYMPUS CEO MICHAEL WOODFORD SAYING: "I expect these people to keep on acting the way they've been acting, and the facade, or the Kabuki, to continue. But the biggest story is Japan, not Olympus, and it's democracy and how it's public opinion which changes things through elected governments. So I hope we see that in the months and years ahead." Woodford was fired in October, leading to a chain of events that included an admission from Olympus that it had used improper accounting to conceal massive investment losses, and on-going investigations by law enforcement agencies in Japan, Britain and the United States. But Olympus refused to give Woodford his old job back and Japanese shareholders refused to support his attempts to challenge management in the lead-up to the EGM. (SOUNDBITE)(English) EX-OLYMPUS CEO MICHAEL WOODFORD SAYING: "It's a mockery. It's why the world looks on and continues to think that this country works in a completely different way, it's an Alice in Wonderland. After the world's eyes were on this, how dare they insult the intelligence of people, so it's not a new start." The EGM began promptly at 10 a.m. local time (0100 GMT) with outgoing Olympus president Shuichi Takayama and the entire board bowing before shareholders in a traditional gesture of public apology. (SOUNDBITE)(Japanese) SHUICHI TAKAYAMA, OUTGOING OLYMPUS PRESIDENT, SAYING: "The board of directors and I would like to offer our deepest and sincerest apologies." Shareholders approved Hiroyuki Sasa, 56, as new president and approved the role of chairman to Yasuyuki Kimoto, a former executive at its main lender and a key Olympus shareholder. Leading foreign shareholders oppose both men, alarmed that Olympus' creditors will call the shots in the boardroom. Arnold Gay, Reuters.