Olympus Corporation

Olympus Corporation
Olympus Corporation
Type Corporation TYO: 7733
Industry Imaging
Founded 12 October 1919
Founder(s) Takeshi Yamashita[1]
Headquarters Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan
Key people Shuichi Takayama, Representative Director & President (from 26 Oct. 2011)[2]
Products Precision machineries and instruments, Cameras, Voice recorders, Medical endoscopes and other medical devices, face cream and tupperware-like plastic table ware
Revenue increase ¥847,105 million (y/e March 2011)[3]
Employees 39,727 (@31 Mar. 2011)[3]
Website Olympus Global

Olympus Corporation (オリンパス株式会社 Orinpasu Kabushiki-gaisha?) is a Japan-based manufacturer of optics and reprography products. Olympus was established on 12 October 1919, initially specialized in microscope and thermometer businesses.[4] It global headquarters are in Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan, while its USA operations are based in Center Valley, Pennsylvania, and European operations are based in Hamburg, Germany. Its original global headquarters was in Hatagaya, but it is currently under reconstruction.

In late 2011 the company sacked its newly-appointed British president, precipitating a scandal that wiped 75% off the company's stock market valuation. The scandal culminated in admission by the company that some of its board members had engaged in one of the biggest and most durable loss-concealing scams in the history of corporate Japan.[5]



Cameras & audio

In 1936, Olympus introduced its first camera, the Semi-Olympus I. The first innovative camera series from Olympus was the Pen, launched in 1959. Half-frame format, allowing 72 pictures of 18 × 24mm format on a standard 36 exposure roll of film, made Pen cameras compact and portable for their time.

Olympus OM Lenses

The Pen system design team, led by Yoshihisa Maitani, later created the OM system, a full-frame professional 35mm SLR system designed to compete with Nikon and Canon's bestsellers. The OM system introduced a new trend towards more compact cameras and lenses, being much smaller than its competitors and presenting innovative design features such as off-the-film (OTF) metering and OTF flash automation. Eventually the system included 14 different bodies, approximately 60 Zuiko-branded lenses, and numerous camera accessories.

Olympus Quick Flash camera

However, Olympus did not implement autofocus, ultimately leading to their decline as a maker of professional film camera systems[citation needed].

In 1983, Olympus, along with Canon, branded a range of video recording equipment manufactured by JVC[citation needed], and called it "Olympus Video Photography", even employing renowned photographer Terance Donovan to promote the range[citation needed]. A second version of the system was available the year after, but this was Olympus' last foray into the world of consumer video equipment until digital cameras became popular[citation needed].

Olympus manufactures compact digital cameras and is the designer of the Four-Thirds System standard for digital single-lens reflex cameras. Olympus' Four Thirds system flagship DSLR camera is the E-5 released in 2010. Olympus is also the largest manufacturer of Four-Thirds lenses, under the Zuiko brand.

At one time Olympus cameras used only the proprietary xD-Picture Card for storage media. This storage solution is less popular than more common formats, and recent cameras can use SD and CompactFlash cards. The most recent development is Olympus' focus on the Micro Four Thirds system.

Olympus first introduced the Microcassette. The Olympus Pearlcorder L400, released in the 1980s, was the smallest and lightest Microcassette Voice recorder ever offered for sale, 2.9 (L) × 0.8 (H) × 2.0 in. (W) / 73 (L) × 20 (H) × 52 (W) 3.2 oz (91 g).[6]

Medical and surgical

Olympus manufactures endoscopic, ultrasound, electrocautery, endotherapy and cleaning & disinfection equipment. The first flexible Endoscope in the world was co-developed and manufactured by Olympus in Tokyo.[7]


Since the beginning, the company has also been a manufacturer of microscopes and optics for specialised needs, such as medical use. The first microscope manufactured at Olympus was called the Asahi.[8] Nowadays Olympus is a worldwide renowned manufacturer of microscopes. Olympus offers a complete range of microscopes, which covers applications from education and routine studies up to state of the art research imaging systems both in life science and materials science.


Olympus manufactures and sells industrial scanners, flaw detectors, probes and transducers, thickness gages, digital cameras, image analysis software, industrial videoscopes, fiberscopes, light sources, XRF and XRD analyzers, and high-speed video cameras.

  • 1919: The company was founded as Takachiho Seisakusho. In Japanese mythology, deities live on Takamagahara, the peak of Mt. Takachiho. The first corporate logo was TOKIWA, derived from Tokiwa Shokai, the company that the founder, Takeshi Yamashita, had worked for. Tokiwa Shokai held an equity stake in Takachiho Seisakusho and was responsible for marketing Takachiho products. The logo reads "TOKIWA TOKYO". The "G" and "M" marks above are believed to be the initials of, Goro Matsukata, the president of Tokiwa Shokai.
  • 1921: The Olympus brand was introduced in February 1921. This logo was used for microscopes and other products. Brochures and newspaper ads for cameras also used this logo. The OLYMPUS TOKYO logo is still in use today. There was a period in which OIC was used instead of TOKYO in the logo. OIC stood for Optical Industrial Company, which was a translation of Olympus' Japanese corporate name at that time. This logo was used for the GT-I and GT-II endoscopes, among others.
  • 1942: The company was renamed to Takachiho Optical Co., Ltd., when optical products became the mainstay of the company.
  • 1949: The name changed to Olympus Optical Co., Ltd. It was named after Mount Olympus, which like Mt. Takachiho is the home of gods, this time of Greek mythology. In the words of the company, they chose the name to "reflect its strong aspiration to create high-quality, world-famous products".
  • 1970: The new logo was designed to give impressions of quality and sophistication.
  • 2001: The yellow line underneath the new logo is called the "Opto-Digital Pattern" and it represents light and boundless possibilities of digital technology. It symbolizes dynamic and innovative nature of Opto-Digital Technology and Olympus Corporation. This logo is called the Communication Symbol of Olympus and it represents Olympus' brand image.
  • 2003: Renamed Olympus Corporation.



Shareholding in Olympus is dispersed, and the company's key institutional investors are largely passive.[9] As of 31 March 2011, investors include Nippon Life Insurance (8.4%), Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi (4.98%), and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking (3.13%), and the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (2.55%). Foreign institutions and individuals speak for 27.71% of Olympus shares.[9][10]


According to its 2011 Annual Report, Olympus is governed by a 15-person board of directors, with Tsuyoshi Kikukawa as its President and CEO, and Michael C. Woodford as President and chief operating officer. It has three "outside directors".[11] It has a four-member 'Board of Auditors' which supervises and audits directors' performance. The company's executive committee consists of 28 members, responsible for the day-to-day operations.[12]

Woodford controversy

On 1 April 2011, Michael Woodford, 51, was named president and chief operating officer – the first ever foreigner to hold the position – replacing Kikukawa, who became chairman. Woodford, an Olympus veteran of 30-years, was previously Executive Managing Director of Olympus Medical Systems Europa. Olympus appointed Woodford its CEO six months later, but the board suddenly removed him as chief executive two weeks into the job, whilst allowing him to retain his board seat.[13]

Woodford alleged that his removal was linked to several prior acquisitions he questioned, particularly the US$2.2 billion deal in 2008 to acquire British medical equipment maker Gyrus Group. Thomson Reuters reported that US$687 million was paid to a middle-man as a success fee – a sum equal to 31% of the purchase price, and which ranks as the highest ever M&A fee.[13] According to the Daily Telegraph, some of the sums paid out relating to the acquisition of a technology company ITX were also under examination.[14] Woodford noted that an article in Japanese financial magazine Facta in July prompted his suspicion of the transactions.[9] Reports also said the company acquired three other Japanese companies outside its core business, and recognised that the assets were worth US$721 million less than their acquisition value 12 months previously.[2]

Shareholders expressed concern after Olympus' share price nearly halved in value following the Woodford revelations, and asked for "prompt action".[13][15] Following his dismissal, Woodford passed on information to the British Serious Fraud Office, and requested police protection. He said the payments may have been linked to "forces behind" the Olympus board.[15] Japanese newspaper Sankei suggest that a total of $1.5bn in acquisition-related advisory payments could be linked to the Yakuza.[14]

The company responded on 19 October that "major differences had arisen between Mr. Woodford and other management regarding the direction and conduct of the company’s business". On the Gyrus acquisition, it also declared the Audit Board's view that “no dishonesty or illegality is found in the transaction itself, nor any breach of obligation to good management or any systematic errors by the directors recognised.”[13] On 26 October, the company announced that in order to assuage shareholders' concerns, Kikukawa resigned as chairman; he was replaced by Shuichi Takayama. Olympus shares rebounded 23 percent.[2][16]

On 8 November 2011, the company admitted that the money had been used to cover losses on investments dating to the 1990s[17] and that company's accounting practice was "not appropriate", thus coming clean on "one of the biggest and longest-running loss-hiding arrangements in Japanese corporate history", according to the Wall Street Journal. The company laid the blame for the inappropriate accounting on ex-president Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, auditor Hideo Yamada and executive VP Hisashi Mori.[5]

On 15 November, Reuters published concerns raised by an unnamed investment banker formerly at Paine Webber in the 1990s that Olympus was even then using Bermuda funds to conceal losses on acquisitions, as Japanese accounting standards did not require unlisted investments to be marked to market.[18] On the same day, Woodford alleged that Olympus' non-executive directors were ineffective, and criticised the lack of action on the part of major Japanese shareholders.[19]

See also

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  1. ^ "Olympus History: Origin of Our Name". http://www.olympus-global.com/en/corc/history/about/. Retrieved 16 January 2007. 
  2. ^ a b c Yasu, Mariko (27 October 2011). "Olympus's Kikukawa Quits as Axed Woodford Takes Case to FBI", BusinessWeek. Retrieved 27 October 2011
  3. ^ a b Outline. Olympus Corp. Archived from [http://www.olympus-global.com/en/corc/profile/outline/ the original on 16 Nov. 2011. Retrieved 16 Nov. 2011
  4. ^ "History of Olympus: Founding". http://www.olympus-global.com/en/corc/history/found/. Retrieved 16 January 2007. 
  5. ^ a b "Olympus President: Will Do Utmost To Avoid Delisting". The Wall Street Journal. 7 November 2011. http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20111107-719199.html. Retrieved 8 November 2011. 
  6. ^ Thomas, Ralph D. (2006). "Ultra Compact Pearlcorder L400 Micro, 1980s". Thomas Investigative Publications, Inc. http://www.pimall.com/nais/pivintage/pearlcorder.html. Retrieved 3 March 2007. 
  7. ^ "OLYMPUS | Olympus History: VOL. 2 Birth of Gastrocameras". Olympus-global.com. http://www.olympus-global.com/en/corc/history/story/endo/gastro/index.html. Retrieved 8 November 2011. 
  8. ^ "Olympus History: The Asahi Microscope". Olympus Corporation. Archived from the original on 27 December 2006. http://web.archive.org/web/20061227010326/http://www.olympus-global.com/en/corc/history/micro/asahi.cfm. Retrieved 21 February 2007. 
  9. ^ a b c Bacani, Cesar (24 October 2011) "The Olympus Scandal: When a Foreign CEO Rebels" (pg 3). CFO Innovation Asia. Retrieved 24 October 2011
  10. ^ "Investor information (as of 31 March 2011". Olympus Corp. Retrieved 24 October 2011
  11. ^ "Board of Directors, Corporate Auditors and Executive Officers (as of 29 June 2011)". Olympus Corp. Retrieved 24 October 2011
  12. ^ "Corporate Governance". Olympus Corp. Retrieved 24 October 2011
  13. ^ a b c d Bacani, Cesar (24 October 2011) "The Olympus Scandal: When a Foreign CEO Rebels" (pg 1). CFO Innovation Asia. Retrieved 24 October 2011
  14. ^ a b Russell, Jonathan (23 Oct 2011). "Huge Olympus fees have 'underworld links'". Daily Telegraph. retrieved 24 October 2011.
  15. ^ a b Russell, Jonathan (21 Oct 2011). "Olympus launches investigation into M&A fees". Daily Telegraph. retrieved 24 October 2011.
  16. ^ Cheesman, Chris (26 October 2011). "Olympus chairman quit over 'widespread concerns'" Amateur Photographer. Retrieved 27 October 2011
  17. ^ Soble, Jonathan (29 September 2011). "Olympus used takeover fees to hide losses". Financial Times. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/8745be6a-09af-11e1-a2bb-00144feabdc0.html#ixzz1d5bogLCn. Retrieved 8 November 2011. 
  18. ^ Kelly, Tim; Gray, Kevin (15 November 2011). "Olympus accounting tricks queried back in 1990s". Reuters. http://uk.reuters.com/article/2011/11/15/idUKL3E7MB0LU20111115. Retrieved 15 November 2011. 
  19. ^ Curwen, Lesley (15 November 2011). "Former Olympus boss Woodford blows whistle on company". BBC News. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/15742048. Retrieved 15 November 2011. 

External links

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