Woodford says he will regain control of troubled Olympus

Michael Woodford, the chief executive-turned-whistleblower at Japanese firm Olympus, yesterday claimed he was winning the backing of major institutional investors willing to buy shares and back his campaign to regain control of the company.

Speaking after a company-appointed panel delivered a damning verdict on how top managers bled Olympus of some £1 billion in one of Japan’s worst corporate scandals, Woodford said investors were flocking to meet him.

“Big, big, big names are travelling the world to see me,” he said. “I met some in New York on Friday and others are coming to London. And I might have to return to Japan in the coming days, it depends.”

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He declined to identify his contacts, saying only they were “potential shareholders”.

Despite his sacking on 14 October for querying a series of odd-looking acquisitions and fees, Woodford remained a company director while launching a one-man campaign to urge prosecutors, regulators and journalists around the globe to investigate.

He finally resigned last week to free himself, he says, of corporate shackles that prevented him from contacting new investors in his quest to oust the current board and lead Olympus back to financial strength.

The scandal, that could yet spell a delisting if once-venerable Olympus fails to meet a 14 December deadline for reporting results or if the money trail leads prosecutors to Japanese gangsters, has sent the group’s stock plunging up to 80 per cent.

But investor hopes that Olympus will avoid that step if its boardroom and books are cleansed has sparked a rebound for a company whose robust core diagnostic endoscope business accounts for some 70 per cent of the global market.

A number of shareholders, including Baillie Gifford, have raised concerns about the firm.