March 20, 2012 / 11:23 PM / 6 years ago

Olympus ex-CEO's first book to hit Japan in April

LONDON (Reuters) - Michael Woodford, the sacked CEO-turned-whistleblower at Japan’s disgraced Olympus Corp(7733.T), is to publish his memoir of one of Japan’s most high-profile frauds around the time of a key April shareholder vote to approve new managers at the company.

Michael Woodford, the former CEO of Olympus, smiles as he leaves during a break on the first day of his unfair dismissal case against his former employer at a tribunal in east London, March 1, 2012. REUTERS/Andrew Winning

The Japanese edition will be followed in June by an English language account Woodford has likened to a John Grisham thriller.

The 300-page blockbuster is likely to keep up pressure on the company that fired Woodford after he revealed a $1.7 billion accounting fraud last October.

“We want to move the Japanese version as quickly as possible, while it remains topical,” Woodford said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

The Olympus shareholder meeting, scheduled for April 20, will be asked to approve a new management team to take over from the largely discredited board.

Woodford, a 30-year Olympus veteran who cut his teeth at the endoscope and camera maker as a UK salesman, has already kicked off a legal battle in London for wrongful dismissal on grounds of discrimination and whistleblowing.

Woodford, who spent much of his Olympus career in Britain where he owns two properties, hopes to be able to bring the case against Olympus in the East London Employment Tribunal.

If the case runs into problems over jurisdiction, Woodford, who is advised by UK law firm Simmons & Simmons, says he could still bring a defamation suit against Olympus in the UK High Court.

Olympus’s board fired Woodford on October 14, 2011, just two weeks after his promotion to CEO. The company said he failed to understand its management style and Japanese culture.

Woodford fled Japan, fearing for his safety after a warning from a person he trusted, and sent dossiers of documents to journalists and Japanese, British and U.S. enforcement agencies to persuade them to investigate Olympus’s missing millions.

At a news conference two weeks later, Olympus’s new President Shuichi Takayama blasted him for leaking internal information.

Since then, an independent panel of legal and accounting experts has described Olympus management as “rotten to the core”. Seven people have been arrested for fraud and the 92-year-old company has been forced to restate its results.

Asked whether he would be prepared to settle out of court with any new Olympus board, Woodford said: “I don’t mind either way ... But I‘m obviously not going to sign any gagging order.”

Editing by David Cowell

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