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Exposure: Inside the Olympus Scandal: How I Went from CEO to Whistleblower [Kindle Edition]

Michael Woodford
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)

Kindle Price: $9.99
Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

“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.”

Editorial Reviews


With as much suspense as most thrillers, Michael Woodford's story has the hallmarks of a John Grisham novel. Even those without much knowledge of business should find it easy to follow and enjoyable to read. A brilliantly gripping book, with a great hero at its heart. His story is all the more frightening for being true. Evening Standard Michael Woodford's rapid ascent and downfall for doing the right thing is nicely told in this first-person whodunnit. The kind of integrity and courage that Woodford displayed is unusual. Exposure should be seen as compulsory reading for company directors and MBA students... Woodford stands tall as an example of leadership. Read his book and ask yourself: would you do the same thing - or would you just shut up and go to Davos? Economist Brace yourself, for this is a rare tale of integrity and probity in business. Woodford tells his tale like a thriller, uncovering fraud piece by piece... He triumphs with a pacey narrative [and] a storyteller's eye for detail. A fine book by a fine man who did the right thing. If it does get the Hollywood treatment, Woodford should get a George Clooney at the very least. The Times Michael Woodford had everything the corporate world could ever offer. Yet when he discovered rampant corruption at the core of one of Japan's most prestigious companies, he did not hesitate: This is a sensational personal account of a man of great courage and principle who got to the top, and blew the whistle to glorious effect. In the corporate world Michael Woodford is too rare and exceptional a breed -- Jon Snow Channel 4 News If Michael Woodford follows through with his threat to write a book on the events leading up to his dismissal by Olympus it promises to be a real humdinger along the lines of Too Big To Fail or Barbarians At the Gate -- James Moore Independent Michael Woodford took a considerable risk in exposing wrongdoing. He was a study of boldness in action -- Lionel Barber Financial Times The most celebrated international whistleblower of recent times... his story is filled with mystery, suspense, duplicity and betrayal Management Today The business book of the year has to be Michael Woodford's Exposure -- Rosamund Urwin Evening Standard The first westerner to work his way to the top of a Japanese corporation discovered a few months later a GBP950m secret eating away at its heart. ... when he blew the whistle [he] learned of potential plots to take his life. Independent In a world increasingly dominated by global multinationals, he just felt someone had to speak out Sunday Times He lost his job for his integrity The Economist Michael Woodford could have spent years turning a blind eye to the shady dealings of executives at Olympus. Instead he dove headfirst into allegations of corporate misconduct Time Michael Woodford has proven himself a hero, though he never wanted the battle. He risked everything -- Clive Stafford Smith A gripping chronicle by a corporate whistle-blower who achieved a stunning victory Kirkus He is one of the few foreign businessmen to have penetrated deep inside a Japanese corporation and to report back unflinchingly on what he saw. What he found was not pretty Financial Times

About the Author

Michael Woodford grew up in Liverpool and joined Olympus as a medical equipment salesman, rising through the ranks to run its UK, MEA and European businesses. In April 2011 he was appointed President and COO of the Olympus Corporation - the first Western 'salary-man' 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 approaching $2 billion. He was named Business Person of the Year 2011 by the Sunday Times, the Independent and the Sun, and won the Financial Times ArcelorMittal Award for Boldness in Business. He lives in London with his wife and two teenage children.

Product Details

  • File Size: 718 KB
  • Print Length: 272 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1591845750
  • Publisher: Portfolio; Reprint edition (November 27, 2012)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0087GJMDU
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #167,576 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A window into Japan's insular corporate culture January 11, 2013
Having lived and worked in Japan for 5 years just prior to the onset of the Olympus scandal, I was not at all surprised to see things unfold at Olympus. This can happen - and HAS happened - at any number of Japanese companies due to their culture of hierarchical deference, extreme pressure to conform and little regard for return on investment - coupled with shareholders and a media corps who do absolutely nothing to rock the boat. Increasingly, the fingerprints of Japan's well organized crime families (yakuza) have added to the excitement. Woodford does an excellent job of capturing what it is like to be "inside the machine" - and also captures well how if you are a "gaijin" (foreigner), no matter how inside the machine you are (company President!) you are never really inside the machine. If you are looking for a fast paced eye opener on business in Japan - this is not a bad place to start.

Why 3 stars? I detected repeated whiffs of egomania. The author recounts in numbing detail his many interactions with the press. Clearly, he needed to use the media to get the story out and on one dimension it is part of his courage to be so public about the issues. That said, one can't help but sense his relishing being the center of attention. Towards the end of the book, he is careful to note all of the awards he won as "Businessman of the year" and includes a couple of emails that make sure you know he is a truly great guy. Just in case you didn't get the point, there a couple of essays written in the epilogue to let you know that not only does the author think he is a great guy, but he has witnesses! To me, it detracted from the power of the underlying story - maybe others will not feel the same way
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good. December 7, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I thought the Karl Taro Greenfield story in Businessweek was great last year so I was familiar with the story. This account from Michael Woodford is a page turner as a blow by blow account of the scandal. I read the kindle version in pretty quick time so that's a good guide, it is captivating.

If you're looking for the next Barbarians at the Gate or Too Big To Fail then you'll be disappointed, as it could have really done with a writers input, but the raw account is compelling enough that I'd recommend it.

It would have been great to see some more backstory on the authors successes at Olympus in the past few years also.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing December 24, 2012
By John
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I started this book on a Friday evening, and had finished it by the following Saturday evening. I'm not the kind of person who reads books in 24 hours, but this one had the unique ability to keep me wrapped up on it with no intentions of taking a break.

It's not a happy book, but you cheer for the protaganist, Mr. Woodford, as he lays his claims and recounts events with enough precision to be convincing, even if not enough to satisfy all one's curiosity; I felt like the book could have been longer and more flushed out (especially links to organized crime, which would have made the book even more juicy). However I understand much had to be withheld for legal and security reasons. But by reading between the lines, it is likely that what actually happened is much worse than what the currently available information portrays. For example, the Japanese police, only nominally competent, had to tell Mr. Woodford to not even go on his balcony! This is big. I liked that Woodford continually reminds of the impact on his family and his health. For the CEO of a major world company who by his own admission boasted a 7-figure salary, Woodford comes off as simply human, with both pluses and minuses.

Even though Woodford tries to make clear that he is not against Japan or Japanese people, and that many Japanese people supported him through his ordeal, nonetheless this book does not leave one with a positive impression of the way things work in Japan. For those of us who live in Japan, it may serve as a solemn warning to be careful in our dealings; Things here work fundamentally different than we're used to, and our key assumptions may be wrong.

Highly recommended.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hurray for whistelblowers! March 20, 2013
By John
This is a timely book, since the whole world is suffering in the Global Financial Crisis which was caused by the sort of human behavior discussed in "Exposure."

Michael Woodford, in his easy, informative, and entertaining style, will enlighten readers to the sad truth that the world is full of "yes men" who hold positions and receive salaries but don't actually perform their duties.

Most importantly, Mr. Woodford shows that one man armed with the truth can defeat an army of these "yes men."

I hope Mr. Woodford will enjoy many future benefits from his decision to expose fraud rather than participate in cover-up.

The hardback edition is handsome and will have a permanent place in my library.

John Christmas, author of "Democracy Society"
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By Martin
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Easy read and a story told without prejudice. Michael Woodford also tries hard to leave you with hope even though much about his experience shows how foolish you are if you expect Japan to easily see economic turn around. It would make an interesting discussion to get those in business in Japan to suggest how Woodford might have done things better, ...but my guess is people would struggle to give an answer. He can never go back to Olympus, but personally I think the new government should invite him back to head up those in charge of running nuclear power generation in Japan.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars I admire Woodford's courage but the self-congratulatory tone became...
I admire Woodford's courage but the self-congratulatory tone became increasingly irritating. He writes off other board members as 'Yes' men. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Victoria Recio Garcia
4.0 out of 5 stars Scary story of corporate Japan
Scary story of corporate Japan. If you want to know how the system works, this is a good - while extreme - example.
Published 2 months ago by Szymon Walus
3.0 out of 5 stars Courageous Act But Not A Very Good Book As Written By The Protagonist
I would like to start off by saying that Mr. Woodford is courageous and what he did was brave and should be applauded. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Baron Don
5.0 out of 5 stars very good
Unbelievable story, it had me hooked from page one, very, very good read
Published 7 months ago by Hilary Jackson
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
This is a well written and smart page turner made all the better because it recounts true life events.
Published 8 months ago by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars I would like those hours of my life back
If you can get past Woodford's ego, self-indulgent writing style, and sneaking suspicion that he was just hurt that he wasn't let-in on the board's action, it's an interesting take... Read more
Published 8 months ago by EHaynes
5.0 out of 5 stars great read
great read
Published 8 months ago by Jacqueline A. Totten
4.0 out of 5 stars first hand account of need of strong corporate governance
While it reads like a crime thriller, the book definitely brings out the dire need of corporate governance in its true sense. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars Avoid at all costs
"Not as bad as some CEO books," the Times delicately put it (I paraphrase). This is a cliche-ridden disaster of a book which relies on only one thing to pull the reader... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Scott Diel
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent book
great book, specially for people working with or in
a japanese company or environment. good read,
because of that a recommendation!
Published 12 months ago by Marcus Lange
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