Olympus ousted CEO to visit Japan, seeks new board

TOKYO Sat Dec 10, 2011 9:24am GMT

Former Olympus Chief Executive Michael Woodford is interviewed by Reuters in New York November 30, 2011. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Former Olympus Chief Executive Michael Woodford is interviewed by Reuters in New York November 30, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Brendan McDermid

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TOKYO (Reuters) - Olympus Corp's ousted CEO, Michael Woodford, flies to Japan on Tuesday to press on with a battle to win back his job, as media reported that prosecutors plan to raid the homes of suspects in a $1.7 billion (1 billion pounds) accounting fraud at the camera maker.

Woodford wants to meet potential candidates for a new management team for which he will also seek shareholder and investor backing when the board comes up for election at an extraordinary shareholders' meeting, possibly in February.

He will leave Japan on Friday morning, an assistant in Tokyo said in an e-mail.

The visit comes as Olympus prepares to issue its earnings before a Wednesday deadline in order to avoid being delisted by the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

Even if it does meet the deadline, the 92-year-old maker of endoscopes and cameras could still be dumped from the exchange if its accounting misstatements were large enough.

The board, slammed in an independent report on the accounting scandal dragging down the company, has said it plans to stay in place for the time being.

Nearly all the current directors served during Olympus's 13-year cover-up of investment losses.

Olympus President Shuichi Takayama said on Wednesday that the earliest an extraordinary meeting to pick the new board could be held was late-February.

Takayama, who took over after the scandal broke in October, said the management would not resign before the meeting and would pick its own slate of candidates.

PROSECUTORS TO RAID

Japanese prosecutors, with police and the securities watchdog, have decided to raid the homes of potential suspects and offices linked to the Olympus accounting scandal next week, media reported on Saturday.

The prosecutors' investigation is expected to cover a total of more than 10 locations, including the main office of the camera maker, Jiji news agency said.

Prosecutors are also planning to interview former president Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, who told the independent investment panel set up by Olympus last month that he had only learned about the scandal recently, Jiji said.

Olympus has seen its existence threatened by the scandal, in which senior executives cooked the books in a $1.7 billion scheme to hide investment losses. Olympus shares have lost about half their value since Woodford blew the whistle on the accounting problems.

The independent panel made up of six legal and accounting experts, described the management as rotten to the core.

In order to remove them, Woodford will need the support of most shareholders, including Japanese stock holders, who have yet to voice support for the former president.

(Reporting by Tim Kelly and Chikafumi Hodo; Editing by Jonathan Thatcher)

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