Michael C. Woodford said that last Wednesday, as president and chief executive of Japans Olympus Corp., he sent a letter to the imaging-equipment makers chairman urging him to resign over serious governance concerns and asking for a meeting Friday.
But when the British executive arrived at that emergency board meeting, Chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa told the group that Mr. Woodford had ‘a conflict of interest’ and wouldn’t be allowed to speak, according to Mr. Woodford. Instead of Mr. Kikukawa stepping down, the directors stripped Mr. Woodford of his executive positions.
Woodford’s account and the hostile Olympus news conference provide a rare example of conflict spilling into the open in Japan’s typically closed and consensus-driven corporate culture.
Olympus is run like many Japanese companies: largely by Japanese executives who have spent most of their careers in the company. Mr. Kikukawa, 70, has been with Olympus since 1964. Mr. Woodford was the only non-Japanese director on the company’s 15-member board.
Japan, the elite country in Asia, can still not open itself to the outside! What a pity!