BAILLIE Gifford, the Edinburgh-based fund manager, yesterday called for the reinstatement of Michael Woodford as president and CEO of Olympus nearly a month after he was fired from the group after questioning controversial payments.
Baillie Gifford’s investment manager Iain Campbell says the group’s current management is now discredited. Baillie Gifford holds about four per cent of Olympus shares.
“We need a new man at the helm (Woodford) and more effective board oversight, with a majority of independent directors,” said Campbell last night.
Speaking to City A.M. yesterday, Woodford, pictured below, said that ultimately it would be up to Japanese shareholders, who hold the majority of the shares, to decide whether he returned to the company. “If they decided not to have me back because I have exposed wrongdoing, then so be it,” he said.
Campbell said Woodford had no option but to speak out about the questionable payments. “He’s made important disclosures.”
Woodford is demanding a forensic investigation into the more than $1bn in acquisition-related payments, plus more resignations from the board. He says he was first alerted to the payments by the July publication of a Japanese magazine. Meanwhile the largest foreign investor in the camera to medical devices group, Southeastern Asset Management, has also demanded the resignation of the company’s entire board and urged Japanese authorities to resist any temptation to draw a line under an embarrassing scandal by delisting the business.