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奥林巴斯:天价咨询费有玄机,掌门人逼宫反被炒

Kevin Kelleher 2011年10月25日

很少有哪个公司的董事会丑闻会闹到日本摄影器材巨头奥林巴斯的地步。这出好戏一波三折,另人瞠目。故事的每个转折都带来了新的问题,比如菊川刚背后的神秘人佐川元究竟是何方神圣?他如何从奥林巴斯拿走了6.8亿美元的天价“咨询费”?

    伍德福德还在不断给奥林巴斯制造麻烦。他呼吁日本监管机构对这笔咨询费用进行调查,还鼓动股东们也站在他这边,和他一起呼吁监管机构进行调查,完全不怕奥林巴斯起诉自己。日本证监机构的软弱是出了名的,不过奥林巴斯的股东们——包括公司某些最大的股东,都已经开始向公司发难。到目前为止,这起丑闻已经导致奥林巴斯的股价下跌近半,因为这些存在问题的交易可能会导致公司的收益报告改写,而新的收益报告可能会出现非常显著的变化。

    这起丑闻还远远没有结束。许多问题还没得到解答,第一个问题就是那笔钱到哪儿去了。倍受质疑的Axes America公司成立于1997年,在位于纽约市中心的一间办公室里干了好多年。2008年,这家公司撤销了券商登记。另据普华永道会计事务所(PriceWaterhouseCoopers)的报告,就在今年早些时候,Axes America的开曼群岛子公司Axam Investments在收到了奥林巴斯的那笔咨询费后不久,也神秘地注销了。

    《财富》杂志(Fortune)了解到,这两家公司貌似都隶属于佛罗里达州波卡拉顿市的Sagawa & Co公司,它的总裁和所有人为佐川元(音译——译注)。佐川今年64岁,是华尔街的老手。据1991年《证券周刊》(Securities Week)上的一份档案显示,上世纪80年代,他曾在野村证券(Nomura Securities)和德崇证券(Drexel Burnham Lambert)工作,后来又加盟三洋证券美国分公司(Sanyo Securities America),负责兼并购业务,再后来成为了潘韦伯(PaineWebber)公司的一名任事股东。除此之外,关于佐川的信息少之又少。我们向佐川发送了一份采访请求,但他并未回应。

    根据Axes America公司2008年提交给美国证监会(SEC)的一份档案,该公司曾向纽约金融机构佩雷拉温伯格合伙公司(Perella Weinberg Partners)支付6,500万美元的现金。该档案显示佩雷拉温伯格公司也在奥林巴斯收购Gyrus一案中扮演了二级顾问的角色。不过佩雷拉温伯格公司拒绝对此进行评论。该公司对此案的参与止于并购双方2007年的会谈期间,当时Axes America公司的咨询费用还远远没有膨胀到数亿美元的地步。

    不管奥林巴斯丑闻最后结果如何,菊川刚和他的董事会大概都不会有好果子吃。如果奥林巴斯能逃过抄底买家的恶意收购,那么它将需要一个新的领导层。与此同时,伍德福德仍然在继续爆料。上周四,他暗示奥林巴斯“非正规费用”的总额可能高达15亿美元,并表示他在揭奥林巴斯老底的同时,也正在寻求警方的保护。

    译者:朴成奎

    Woodford is still stirring up trouble for Olympus, calling for Japanese regulators to investigate the advisory fees, clamoring for shareholders to also demand an investigation and all but daring Olympus to try to sue him. Japan's securities regulators are notoriously toothless, but shareholders -- including those with the largest stakes in Olympus - are starting to speak up. Already, the scandal has nearly halved Olympus' stock price, since the deals in question could force the company to restate its earnings significantly.    

    What's more, the scandal is far from passing. Many questions remain, starting with just where all that money went. Axes America, the advisory company in question, set up business in 1997 and worked out of a midtown office for years. In 2008, the company withdrew its broker-dealer registrations. Then, according to a report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Axam was stricken from the Cayman Islands registry earlier this year, not long after receiving its last payment from Olympus.

    Both companies appear to have been controlled by a Boca Raton, Fla., firm called Sagawa & Co., whose president and owner is Hajime Sagawa, Fortune has learned. Sagawa, 64, is an old hand on Wall Street. According to 1991 profile in Securities Week, Sagawa worked at Nomura Securities and Drexel Burnham Lambert in the 1980s before heading up M&A at Sanyo Securities America and later becoming a managing partner at PaineWebber. But little information on Sagawa exists beyond that. Sagawa did not respond to requests for an interview.

    According to a 2008 filing by Axes America with the SEC, the firm paid $6.5 million in cash to Perella Weinberg Partners, a financial advisory firm based in New York. The filing noted that Perella Weinberg acted as a subadvisor to Olympus' acquisition of Gyrus. Perella Weinberg declined to comment for this story. But its involvement seems limited to the merger talks in 2007, well before Axes' fees ballooned into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

    Whatever the outcome of the Olympus scandal, it's not likely to favor Kikukawa or his board. If Olympus can escape a hostile takeover from a buyer who sees its shares are cheap, then it will need new leadership. For his part Woodford, is remaining vocal. On Thursday, he hinted that the total amount of "irregular payments" could total $1.5 billion, and that he was seeking police protection as he agitates for Olympus to clean its house.

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