Renault to pick new leader Thursday as Ghosn in detention in Japan

26, Jan. 2019

PARIS, Kyodo - Renault SA will replace Carlos Ghosn as its chairman and CEO on Thursday as the once-feted auto tycoon has been denied bail in Japan since his arrest last year for alleged financial misconduct, sources close to the matter said.

The French automaker will hold a board meeting to install a new leadership that will immediately face the challenge of rebuilding ties with its longtime alliance partner Nissan Motor Co., which brought the allegations against Ghosn to prosecutors following a whistleblower tip.

Ghosn, who was ousted as Nissan's chairman following his November arrest, resigned as Renault chairman and CEO on Wednesday, French Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire was quoted as saying by Bloomberg Television on Thursday.

Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa will hold a press conference on the conclusions of Renault's board meeting later Thursday.

The Japanese automaker said it is considering calling an extraordinary shareholders' meeting in mid-April to seek approval to remove Ghosn and Greg Kelly, his close aide who was also charged over financial misconduct at Nissan, as directors and to appoint a new board member to be nominated by Renault.

Mitsubishi Motors Corp., another Japanese partner in the three-way auto alliance, has also removed Ghosn as its chairman.

Renault's board meeting comes amid pressure from the French government, its largest shareholder, to ensure the stability of the alliance.

Ghosn has been repeatedly denied bail by a Tokyo court and may stay longer in detention until his trial starts.

Renault is likely to split the roles of chairman and CEO with Jean-Dominique Senard, CEO of French tire company Michelin, seen as the leading candidate to become new chairman, according to local reports.

Several names have been floated for CEO, including Thierry Bollore, deputy CEO of Renault who is currently in charge of overseeing the day-to-day operations of the company.

Under the alliance, Renault owns 43.4 percent of Nissan, which has a 15 percent stake in the French firm without voting rights.

Nissan is widely seen as hoping to reduce the influence of Renault on its management and review the alliance to make it more equitable.

The Japanese firm has said it did not have enough checks on Ghosn's power during his two-decade reign.

Ghosn, known for saving Nissan from the brink of bankruptcy, was sent to the company from Renault in 1999 as chief operating officer. He became Nissan president in 2000 and served as chief executive officer from 2001 to 2017.

France asked Japan to accept a merger of the two automakers when officials of the two countries met in Tokyo last week, other sources have said, but Le Maire has denied that the French delegation, which involved a Renault director, made such a request.

Ghosn has been indicted on charges of violating the financial instruments law and aggravated breach of trust.

He has been accused of understating his remuneration in Nissan's financial statements for years and transferring derivatives losses from his private asset management company to the Japanese automaker's books. (Kyodo)