Ex-Olympus CEO asks Japan to examine buyouts

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The ousted British former chief executive of Olympus has sent a letter to Japan's securities watchdog asking it to look into the company's purchases in recent years, a report said Thursday.

The move comes a day after the firm admitted paying almost $700 million to an adviser on one of four deals that Michael Woodford, who was fired last week as CEO of the camera maker, has raised questions about.

He said the letter and other documents was sent from London and should reach Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission (SESC) on Friday, according to Dow Jones Newswires.

Enclosed with the letter were documents relating to the acquisitions, including a report prepared by accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers that looked into payments on the Gyrus deal, he added.

"It's up to the SESC to decide what to do with the documents," he said.

Woodford was demoted last week over "differences in management style", only six months after being appointed president and two weeks after he was also named chief executive.

But the 30-year company veteran, Olympus' first non-Japanese president and chief executive, said he was removed after he wrote to the company's chairman over the payments and urged him to resign, citing major governance concerns.

Woodford raised questions about the size of payments made by Olympus in a series of deals between 2006 and 2008.

Among them is the $1.92 billion acquisition of British medical-instruments company Gyrus Group and the $687 million paid to an adviser on the purchase.

The fee works out at more than a third of the total purchase price, much higher than the one or two percent normally charged.

Olympus confirmed the fee amount on Wednesday, which was double what chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa was quoted on Tuesday as saying the company had paid.

On Monday, Woodford met Britain's Serious Fraud Office and handed over documents related to the Gyrus deal.

Olympus, which denies any wrongdoing, declined to comment on the latest moves by Woodford.

"We have nothing to say at this moment as we have no confirmation" that he had actually contacted the Japanese and British authorities, a company spokeswoman said.

The SESC said it does not disclose what information it has been provided on individual companies.

Olympus fell around five percent on Thursday afternoon and is more than 45 percent down from before Woodford's demotion.

© 2011 AFP

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