Olympus scandal whistleblower approached by Hollywood (interview update)

Olympus whistleblower Michael Woodford (pictured) is being pursued by Hollywood for the rights to make a movie about the scandal that has rocked corporate Japan, reports Chris Cheesman.

Picture credit: Damien Demolder

Woodford
Olympus whistleblower Michael Woodford is being pursued by Hollywood for the rights to make a movie about the scandal that has rocked corporate Japan.

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‘I’ve already been pursued for the film rights. They [Hollywood] have been contacting my literary agent,’ said Woodford in an interview with Amateur Photographer (AP) after the arrest of seven officials in Japan earlier today.

In the hour-long interview - at AP’s offices in central London - Woodford also voiced his fears for the future of Olympus’s camera business as speculation swirls that the firm will strike a tie-up with another company.

Woodford said he plans to raise the issue at Olympus’s Extraordinary Shareholders’ Meeting, set to take place in Tokyo on 20 April, where he will also call for the entire board of directors to quit and declare themselves unavailable for re-election.

‘They [the directors] can’t possibly survive,’ he told AP.

Commenting on the potential implications of a strategic alliance, Woodford said: ‘If they [Olympus] move in that direction, what happens to Olympus’s camera business? It would be a terribly sad day for a company with pedigree and history and brilliant engineers, if they merged with another company where its core competence was, over time, diluted.’

Woodford, who was sensationally sacked as CEO in October 2011 after exposing a £1.1 billion accounting cover-up, expressed concern that, even if Olympus does not strike a tie-up, the existing board might ‘radically cut back Olympus’s investment in the camera business and make it a niche player, as opposed to a mainline player’.

Woodford stressed that he has no knowledge of Olympus’s plans but he fears that the camera business faces the prospect of ‘rationalisation’.

‘If the company is managed in the right way, Olympus should survive and thrive,’ said Woodford, adding that closing down the camera business would further strain an ailing balance sheet.

Woodford, whose father was a photographer, still places much faith in the camera business and its latest micro four thirds cameras.

‘It’s a viciously competitive market. Products like the Pen [camera] are well differentiated. You are living with a hard currency [exchange rate] and whatever else, and the company is dysfunctional, so it would be very sad if the camera business was the victim.’

He also expressed concern at what may yet emerge from the international probes into the scandal, ongoing on three continents.

Asked whether he considers Olympus a suitable candidate for a take over, he added: ‘We don’t know if Olympus has been cleansed sufficiently. We don’t know what else is going to come out. Would you get into bed with Olympus with so many unknowns?’

Woodford confirmed to AP that he is writing a book on the scandal – to be called Exposure – which is due to be published in Japan in time for the Extraordinary Shareholders’ Meeting on 20 April.

Olympus has repeatedly declined to comment on reports that it may seek a strategic tie-up.

Earlier today, an Olympus Tokyo spokeswoman said the firm did not yet have details of the agenda for the 20 April meeting.

• More from this exclusive interview - which will include details about the book and Woodford's views on the unraveling revelations - will appear on the AP website, and in the magazine, in due course

BACKGROUND ARTICLES

Top Olympus officials arrested over £1.1 billion cover-up

AP INTERVIEW WITH FIRED CEO MICHAEL WOODFORD (November 2011)

Olympus HQ raided by prosecutors

Olympus denies camera division shake-up threat

Sacked Olympus boss outlines key to future

Plot thickens as Olympus fires vice president

We have lost customers' trust, says Olympus president

Olympus is a good business, says sacked CEO

Olympus crisis: Japan PM enters fray

Olympus not aware of 'FBI' probe

Woodford

Michael Woodford (right) pictured with Amateur Photographer (AP) news editor Chris Cheesman, at AP's offices in central London earlier today

Picture credits: Damien Demolder

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