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Ex-Olympus boss says close to picking alternative board

By Alexander Smith

LONDON (Reuters) - Former Olympus Corp head Michael Woodford is close to releasing names of an alternative slate of directors for the board of the company, he told Reuters in an interview, as he fights to return at the helm of the company.

Woodford, who won a battle to force his former employer to admit to more than a decade of accounting fraud, said he was confident that there would be an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) of shareholders within the next three months.

"We are very close to being in a position to release our names, an alternative slate of directors," Woodford told Reuters by telephone, adding that the list included "credible" Japanese figures to lead the maker of cameras and medical equipment.

"We will have an EGM very shortly, within the next three months, and I will be campaigning hard for a slate (of directors) I believe will win," Woodford said.

The company is preparing to issue about $1.28 billion (100 billion yen) in new shares, the Nikkei business daily reported, to bolster its depleted finances.

But Woodford said there was no need for rash decisions.

"I agree that the balance sheet needs to be strengthened but I know that we have cash for the next couple of years. We don't have to rush," Woodford said.

"The key issue is that shareholders should be given the choice, we certainly don't need to rush. We need to look at the options," he said.

Japanese high-tech stalwarts Sony and Fujifilm are seen as possible buyers, the newspaper said.

Woodford said that the report in the Nikkei newspaper showed the desperation of the current Olympus board. Bringing in external shareholders who are also competitors would be fraught with litigation risk.

"It would be very alarming (to do a share deal with competitors)," he said.

"One has to ask what is the motivation (of these two companies)? They compete with us. What are their motives?" Woodford said.

"Based on this report they would have no voting rights. It is likely they would not want to proceed given the litigation risks," Woodford said.

Woodford's bid to return at the helm of Olympus appears doomed, as the banks who will decide its fate have already lined up behind Olympus managers.

(Writing by Douwe Miedema)

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