Renault appoints two interim heads, retains Ghosn as chairman

Mae Love
November 21, 2018

The Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi auto alliance may be hard to manage without the unifying figure of chairman Carlos Ghosn, who is in police custody in Japan facing financial misconduct allegations, Mitsubishi Motors CEO Osamu Masuko said on Tuesday. He started his career at tiremaker Michelin, working there for a number of years at the same time as Ghosn, who has called Bollore a "good candidate" to become Renault CEO.

In a sign that Nissan may now seek to loosen its French parent's hold on their decades-old alliance, the Japanese company informed Renault it also had evidence of potential wrongdoing at Renault-Nissan BV, the Dutch venture overseeing alliance operations under Renault's ultimate control, sources told Reuters.

Nissan released a statement Monday that said an internal investigation revealed that Ghosn, along American board member Greg Kelly, under-reported Ghosn's income-reportedly up to $44 million-with the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

Japanese authorities have extended the detention of Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn by 10 days, according to local media reports.

The allegations of misconduct relate to Ghosn's role as chairman of Nissan, which Renault now owns a 43.4 per cent stake in.

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During an urgent meeting on Tuesday evening, Renault's Board of Directors resolved that the lead independent director Philippe Lagayette will preside over its meetings on an interim basis and that the Deputy CEO Thierry Bollore will "therefore lead the management team of the Group, having the same powers as Mr. Carlos Ghosn", who was arrested in Japan for alleged embezzlement.

The private communication from Nissan Chief Executive Hiroto Saikawa came as the Japanese carmaker, 43.4%-owned by Renault, announced that an investigation had uncovered misconduct involving Ghosn including under-reporting of his compensation and personal use of company assets.

Set to leave Renault in 2022, Ghosn had been laying the groundwork to ensure a future for the alliance, including the option of a merger. Nissan, while nearly 60% bigger than Renault by sales, remains the junior partner in their shareholding hierarchy with a smaller reciprocal 15% non-voting stake in Renault.

The French government, Renault's biggest shareholder, distanced itself from Ghosn in seeking a replacement.

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