Wall Street Journal: 3rd UPDATE: Olympus Wins Shareholder Approval For New Management

April 20th, 2012

Wall Street Journal
April 20, 2012
By Kana Inagaki

— Scandal-hit Olympus Corp. and investors face off at extraordinary shareholders meeting

— Shareholders approve appointment of management-proposed slate of directors

— Shareholders approve revised figures for financial reports dating back five years

— Around a third of shareholders vote against the president nominee and bank-linked director candidates

(Recasts lead, adds vote tally in 3th paragraph, Woodford‘s comment in 10th paragraph)

By Kana Inagaki


TOKYO (Dow Jones)–Olympus Corp. (7733.TO) managed to clinch approval for new management at its first face-off with shareholders since its $1.5 billion accounting scandal broke six months ago, despite an unusually large proportion of investors opposing the nominees for president, chairman and one other director.

Even though it was widely expected, the outcome of the company’s extraordinary general meeting Friday may disillusion some foreign investors, who openly expressed concerns about the close ties between some new board members and the company’s lenders.

Shareholders voted 71% in favor of the appointment of Hiroyuki Sasa, a 30-year veteran at the Japanese camera and medical-imaging equipment maker, as president, while 28% voted against. They voted 65% in favor of chairman candidate Yasuyuki Kimoto, a former senior managing director at Olympus’s main lender, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp., versus 34% against.

Another candidate for director, Hideaki Fujitsuka, a former executive of Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, garnered a 68% support, with 30% opposed.

“My mission is to restore the tarnished brand and people’s confidence as early as possible,” said Sasa, who was formally appointed president after the meeting. “It is necessary to fundamentally reform the management structure to ensure this kind of problem will never occur again.”

Outgoing President Shuichi Takayama and 10 other board members stepped down after allowing one of the country’s biggest corporate scandals to occur on their watch. In a rarity for Japanese boards, a majority of the newly appointed directors come from outside Olympus.

Shareholders also approved revised earnings figures for the fiscal years from April 2006 to 2010, while a shareholder proposal to add former Chief Executive Michael Woodford to the slate of proposed new directors was quickly voted down.

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