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ChatChat - Claudia Cragg

Jul 2, 2013

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Claudia Cragg talks here for a KGNU special programme with Michael Woodford, company president, whistleblower and crusader about his book, Exposurethe story of how he brought to light the dark heart of the Japanese corporation, Olympus.

When Michael Woodford was made President and CEO of that corporation, he became the first Westerner ever to climb the ranks of one of the country's corporate icons.

Then his dream job turned into a nightmare.

Exposure is a deeply personal memoir that reads like a thriller. As Woodford himself puts it, 'I thought I was going to run a health-care and consumer electronics company but found I had walked into a John Grisham novel.'

He learned about a series of bizarre mergers and acquisitions deals totalling $1.7 billion - a scandal which, if exposed, threatened to bring down the entire company. He turned to his fellow executives but was met with hostility and a cover-up. 

Within weeks he was fired in a boardroom coup that shocked the international business world. As rumours emerged of Yakuza (mafia) involvement in the scandal, Woodford fled Japan in fear of his life. 

He went straight to the press - becoming the first CEO of a multinational to blow the whistle on his own company.

Woodford grew up in Liverpool and joined Olympus as a medical equipment salesman. He rose through the ranks to run its UK, MEA and European businesses. 

The Ink Factory, with the support of Film4, has announced that it has optioned film rights to “Exposure”.

Simon Cornwell, producer and co-founder at The Ink Factory said today that they see the movie as "a rich character-driven drama about a man called to take extraordinary action. There are all the elements of a thriller: the constant shadow of the Yakuza, and the very real sense of physical threat. It is also a tale full of contemporary resonance and moral depth. We are very excited to be working with Michael Woodford in bringing his unbelievable experiences to the screen.”

Woodward was named Business Person of the Year 2011 by the Sunday Times, the Independent and the Sun, and won the Financial Times Arcelor-Mittal Award for Boldest Businessperson of the Year. 

SPECIAL NOTE comment from Michael Woodford, dated 3 July 2013. 

"I’ve written and spoken extensively about the Olympus scandal. The lessons of this sad tale should be obvious to anyone who is paying attention, and I do hope that people in Japan are paying attention.  I do not, however, feel that it would be dignified for me to make any comment in relation to the sentencing of my former board colleagues.  I have a great affection and fondness for Japan and want to see the country move forward as I do for myself and my family."

(This interview was recorded and produced for broadcast before the sentences were handed down by the Japanese court and the story contains NO comment from Mr. Woodford on same.)