Today heralded the end of a gruelling ordeal for British-born Michael Woodford, after his and Olympus’s lawyers managed to thrash out a settlement over his unfair dismissal claim. It is thought that he will pocket £10m as a result of the agreement.
It all kicked off when Woodford took the job last October as Olympus’s CEO – its first ever non-Japanese boss – and began asking difficult questions about the company’s finances. Repeated questions about irregular derivative payments made by the firm irked the other members of the board; they booted him out the door faster than he could say ‘the company has been hiding a £1.1bn fraud from its shareholders!’
After a lengthy legal battle – and the accumulation of hefty legal costs – a settlement has been agreed and Woodford told reporters outside the courtroom today that he plans to go sailing on his yacht to celebrate this evening. He won’t be as delighted as you’d expect, however, as he was originally suing the electronics giant for a figure closer to £38m.
The decision to settle is still to be ratified by the Olympus board, but this is expected to go off without a hitch so that the firm can avoid any further embarrassment. The company fired Woodford after just two weeks in the role, saying he had failed to understand its management style and the Japanese business culture.
The day he was sacked, Woodford was made to attend a board meeting and told not to speak, before being instructed to turn in his company laptop and mobile phones, get out of his Tokyo apartment and take a bus to the airport.
Still, you don’t really expect to win when you take on a multi-national corporation, but, having squeezed £10m out of it – instead of losing, he’s not come out of it too badly. Meanwhile MT’s very own Matthew Gwyther is writing a book about Woodford’s Olympus experience: he’ll be glad that things might calm down for a while and let him finish his manuscript…