Nissan plans to oust Ghosn over misconduct

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-46259420

Carlos GhosnImage copyright
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Image caption

Carlos Ghosn is head of the Alliance, which includes Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi

Japanese car giant Nissan has proposed removing chairman Carlos Ghosn from his post over financial misconduct claims.

The firm said it had been conducting an internal investigation for several months which showed Mr Ghosn had been under-reporting his pay package.

“Numerous other significant acts of misconduct” including “personal use of company assets”, were also found.

According to Japanese media reports Mr Ghosn, a towering figure in the car industry, has been arrested in Tokyo.

According to the same reports, which have not been confirmed, he under-reported an amount totalling 5bn yen ($44m; £34m) over a five-year period from 2011.

“Nissan deeply apologises for causing great concern to our shareholders and stakeholders,” the company said.

The firm said it had been providing information to the Japanese Public Prosecutors Office and would continue to do so.

Nissan said it also planned to oust senior executive Greg Kelly, who had been “deeply involved” in the misconduct.

It said a report from a whistleblower had prompted its investigation.


Analysis:

by Theo Leggett, business correspondent

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Carlos Ghosn is a towering figure in the motor industry. He has been credited with turning around both Renault and Nissan, before going on to become the linchpin of the Renault-Nissan Alliance. That Franco-Japanese axis, which also now includes Mitsubishi, is one of the world’s biggest carmakers.

The question is what happens now. Mr Ghosn had already begun shedding some of his responsibilities – he stepped down as chief executive of Nissan last year, and recently offloaded some day to day responsibilities at Renault as well. But he was expected to remain chief executive of Renault and to continue in overall charge of the Alliance for the next few years.

Today’s announcements seem to undermine that strategy. It’s not clear what Renault will now do. But plans for an orderly succession – and potentially the entire future of the rather unwieldy Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi structure – may well have been thrown wide open.


Renault shares slump

As well as being chairman of Nissan – whose car plant in Sunderland is the UK’s largest – Mr Ghosn is also chairman and chief executive of Renault and chairman of Mitsubishi Motors.

In addition, he is chairman and chief executive of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Motors strategic alliance. Shares in Renault fell sharply after the news, dropping almost 13%.

Mr Ghosn has been a titan of the motor industry for nearly 20 years. He was responsible for a dramatic turnaround at Nissan in the early 2000s when the car firm was on the verge of bankruptcy.

Dubbed the “cost-killer” in the 1990s for slashing jobs and closing factories, his reputation was cemented after his strategy succeeded.

Mr Ghosn began his career at Michelin in France, moving on to Renault. He joined Nissan in 1999 after Renault bought a controlling stake and became its chief executive in 2001. Mr Ghosn remained in that post until last year.


Who is Carlos Ghosn?

  • His hero status was so big that his life was serialised in one of Japan’s famous cartoon comic books
  • The Brazilian-born boss of Lebanese descent and a French citizen says his background left him with a feeling of being different, which helped him adapt to new cultures
  • In France he was known as Le Cost Killer, a comment on the deep cuts he made to revive Renault
  • He was once tipped as a potential president of Lebanon, a move he eventually dismissed because he already had “too many jobs”
  • In a 2011 poll of people the Japanese would like to run their country Mr Ghosn came seventh, in front of Barack Obama (ninth)

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