Curioser and curioser at Olympus


Here’s the latest instalment in the saga of Olympus and the mysterious take-over fees: chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa has resigned. He’s going to become a director without executive rights and Shuichi Takayama will replace him. The plan is that these changes can bring some stability to a company that hasn’t been out of the news for over two weeks, and whose share price has plummeted by 56% since 13 October this year.

As for the story so far, here’s a quick recap because it’s far too good to ignore. First, Michael Woodford was sacked as CEO two weeks after assuming the post and commissioning a report that asked why Olympus had paid a 36% fee to a Cayman Islands-based middleman when Olympus took over Gyrus around 2007. Next, Olympus denied that they’d paid the fee. Woodford, meanwhile, took his dossier to the Serious Fraud Office in London.

Then, Olympus recanted and said that, yes, actually, really, it had paid about $687 million to the middleman, but didn’t actually consider it excessive. The Japanese government doesn’t seem too sure about that, though. Tsutomu Okubo, deputy policy chief of the Democratic Party of Japan has come out and said ‘At least the fees were outlandish. The company must explain the whole circumstances behind the incident.’

Oh, and don’t forget that Woodford has sought police protection and there have even been allegations of some kind of underworld involvement.

This one has all the makings of a blockbusting thriller, let alone a soap opera.

(More information from the BBC, Reuters, and the Wall Street Journal.)