Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Olympus Shareholders Shake off Scandal and Approve Its New Board

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Olympus Shareholders Shake off Scandal and Approve Its New Board

Article excerpt

The company had little trouble winning approval for a slate of directors at the first shareholders meeting since its $1.5 billion accounting scandal emerged.

There was the odd accusation of farce and kabuki theater, but Olympus had little trouble winning approval Friday for a new slate of directors at the first shareholders meeting since its $1.5 billion accounting scandal emerged, a reminder of the leeway Japanese investors still give to poor-performing boards.

The scandal, in which Olympus admitted hiding huge investment losses for decades, has wiped more than $4 billion off its market value.

Still, the Japanese maker of cameras and medical equipment maintained the backing during the vote from a solid bloc of institutional shareholders that have stood with the company's management.

That go-ahead came despite opposition from some foreign and individual investors, as well as proxy advisers, who had called for a complete purge of the company's top ranks. Some had also called for the return of Michael C. Woodford, Olympus's former chief executive, who was fired when he tried to look into the company's past finances.

Under special scrutiny are Olympus's nominees for the posts of president and chairman, Hiroyuki Sasa and Yasuyuki Kimoto. Mr. Sasa, who headed marketing for Olympus's medical business, does not have enough management experience to lead such a tough turnaround, the proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services said last month. Meanwhile, there are concerns that Mr. Kimoto, a former banker at Olympus's main lender, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking, will put creditors' interests above those of shareholders.

Mr. Woodford, who still holds a small stake in Olympus, was present at the stockholders meeting. Earlier this year, he abandoned a bid to return to the company's management, but on Friday he demanded to know why he had been fired, and he also pressed the company on reports that it would let some of its former board members stay on as executive officers. …

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