“It was no comfort to know that I was making history, for the forced removal of a company president is almost unheard of in Japan. I rose quietly, left the room, and holding my head high, walked back to my office. My main goal was to escape as quickly as possible. The board had seemed scared—why else would they have acted the way they did. But just what were they scared of?”
When Michael Woodford was made president of Olympus—the company to which he had dedicated thirty years of his career—he became the first Westerner ever to climb the ranks of one of Japan’s corporate giants. Some wondered at the appointment—how could a gaijin who didn’t even speak Japanese understand how to run a Japanese company? But within months Woodford had gained the confidence of most of his colleagues and shareholders. Unfortunately, soon after, his dream job turned into a nightmare.
The trouble began when Woodford learned about a series of bizarre mergers and aquisitions deals totaling $1.7 billion—a scandal that threatened to bring down the entire company if exposed. He turned to his fellow executives— including the chairman who had promoted him Tsuyoshi Kikukawa—for answers. But instead of being heralded as a hero for trying to save the company, Woodford was met with vague responses and hostility—a clear sign of a cover up. Undeterred, he demanded to be made CEO so he could have more leverage with his board and continue to search for the truth. Then, just weeks after being granted the top title, he was fired in a boardroom coup that shocked Japan and the business world at large. Worried his former bosses might try to silence him, Woodford immediately fled the country in fear of his life and went straight to the press—making him the first CEO of a global multinational to blow the whistle on his own company.
Following his dismissal, Woodford faced months of agonizing pressure that at times threatened his health and his family life. But instead of succumbing he persisted, and eventually the men who had ousted him were held to account. Now, Woodford recounts his almost unbelievable true story—from the e-mail that first alerted him to the scandal, to the terrifying rumors of involvement with the Japanese mafia, to the stream of fruitless denials that continued to emanate from Olympus in an effort to cover up the scandal. He also paints a devastating portrait of corporate Japan—an insular, hierarchy-driven culture that prefers maintaining the status quo to exposing ugly truths.
The result is a deeply personal memoir that reads like a thriller narrative. As Woodford 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.”
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||6.26(w) x 9.18(h) x 1.00(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Michael Woodford grew up in Liverpool and joined Olympus in 1981 as a medical equipment salesman. He later became head of its UK, Middle East and Africa and European businesses. In April 2011 he was appointed president and COO of the Olympus Corporation—the first Western “salaryman” to rise through the ranks to the top of a Japanese giant. That October he was made CEO, but only two weeks later was dismissed after querying inexplicable payments of $1.7 billion. He was named Business Person of the Year by four major newspapers and won the Financial Times/Arcelor-Mittal Boldness in Business Person of the Year award. He lives in London with his wife and two teenage children.
Table of Contents
Dramatis Personae viii
1 Rumours and Revelations 5
2 'Who do you work for?' 20
3 Antisocial Forces 37
4 Showdown 58
5 Escape 71
6 Homecoming 93
7 The Three Musketeers 111
8 The Big Apple 134
9 Return 152
10 Rotten to the Core 173
11 Winning the Argument, Losing the War 192
12 Rising Suns Also Set 207
13 Sayonara to All That 223
Epilogue: Bells and Whistles 233
What People are Saying About This
“A gripping chronicle by a corporate whistle-blower who achieved a stunning victory.”
“Exposure treats readers to a fascinating inside look at bare-knuckled corporate governance…[it] should be compulsory reading for company directors and MBA students.”
“Woodford has written a brilliantly gripping book, with a great hero at its heart. His story is all the more frightening for being true.”
—Rosamund Urwin, The Evening Standard (UK)
“Michael Woodford took a considerable risk in exposing wrongdoing. He was a study of boldness in action.”
—Lionel Barber, editor, Financial Times
“Woodford’s reaction to the corporate malfeasance and corruption he discovered once he reached the top is even more noteworthy, though perhaps not surprising. Throughout his life he had demonstrated a willingness to speak out against what he perceived as treachery, even when it could result in financial harm or personal danger.”
“Michael Woodford could have spent years turning a blind eye to the shady dealings of corporate executives at Olympus. Instead . . . he dove headfirst into allegations of corporate misconduct.”
—Time, in naming him a 2011 Person Who Mattered
“Michael Woodford is a man who did not stand by and do nothing. He stood his ground and he spoke the truth. It’s people like him who keep our society from falling into total darkness. Japan could use more people like him.”
—Jake Adelstein, author of Tokyo Vice, from the Afterword
“He’s the most celebrated international whistleblower of recent times. His story is filled with mystery, suspense, and betrayal.”
“Michael Woodford lost his job for his integrity.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
An excellent read! More of a John Grisham tale than a business book, with the only difference being that this story actually happened. The author lost everything that he had worked for and almost lost his family and his life trying to expose the truth. Woodford sets the tone of the story by describing his meteroic rise from humble beginnings with no formal education to become the CEO of Olympus, the Japanese iconic $12B -"no foreigners need apply for management positions", corporation. He then straps you into a roller coaster ride that takes you across multiple continents single handedly trying to tell his message to the world, while potential paid killers are on his trail. A true "David vs. Goliath-san" adventure.
I found the book to be a little dry but a good overview of the situation that occurred at Olympus and, based on my experience with Japanese firms during the 80s and 90s, a good insight into the mindset of senior Japanese management. As well a warning about incentuous relationships in Japanese business world between firms and banks.