Days out from arch rival Nikon launching a mirrorless camera Japanese digital camera Company Olympus has sacked their CEO, telling him to ” catch a bus to the airport,” after he questioned more than $1bn in payments made by the Japanese camera maker in acquisitions between 2006 and 2008.Michael Woodford, the British chief executive of Olympus who had worked for the Company for 30 years, ran into trouble when he question Japanese management about acquisitions, which took place before he joined the board. On Friday shortly after he was sacked shares in Olympus who recently launched a new mirrorless Pen camera in Australia slumped 18%.
Woodford was not allowed to speak at Friday’s board meeting that voted unanimously to dismiss him.
Just weeks before Woodford started asking questions about accounting practises and the payment of large fees to outside contractors,Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, chairman of Olympus, said he was “extremely pleased” with the Briton’s leadership, which had “exceeded my expectations”.
According to documents shown to the Financial Times in the UK, Woodford had been pressing other directors since July to explain payments related to the 2008 purchase of Gyrus, a UK medical equipment company, and three earlier acquisitions in Japan. The documents show that Olympus paid $687m to a Cayman Islands-registered company, AXAM, that had been named as a financial adviser but whose ultimate owners were never ascertained by Olympus. The company disappeared from the trade register three months after receiving its final payment from Olympus, Mr Woodford said. The amount paid represented about a third of the $2.2bn acquisition price.
Woodford said he believed that he had been sacked over his inquiries into why Olympus replaced KPMG as its auditor after internal auditors had privately identified problems with the Gyrus transaction, the documents show.
KPMG, Olympus’ auditor until 2009, said in an internal report dated March that year: “In our opinion proper accounting records have not been maintained.”
In his interview with the Financial Times, Woodford stressed that he had seen no evidence that Olympus executives benefited improperly from the acquisitions. But he said large amounts of money seemed to have “disappeared” into the hands of poorly vetted outside financial advisers and investment vehicles.
Olympus declined to comment on payments made to financial advisers.