Nissan board to meet over Ghosn with Renault alliance in focus

Ghosn’s arrest casts shadow over carmakers’ alliance as French and Japanese finance ministers prepare to meet on issue.

The flags of Japan, France and Nissan outside Nissan Motor Co's global headquarters in Yokohama, Japan [Toru Hanai/Reuters]
The flags of Japan, France and Nissan outside Nissan Motor Co's global headquarters in Yokohama, Japan [Toru Hanai/Reuters]

Nissan Motor Co will hold a board meeting on Thursday to remove Chairman Carlos Ghosn after his shock arrest earlier this week, heralding what could be a long period of uncertainty in its 19-year alliance with Renault.

The alliance between the French and Japanese carmakers, enlarged in 2016 to include Japan’s Mitsubishi Motors, has been rattled by Ghosn’s arrest in Tokyo on Monday when the 64-year-old group chairman was accused of financial misconduct.

Ghosn had shaped the alliance and was pushing for deeper ties including, potentially, at the French government’s urging, a full merger despite strong reservations at the Japanese carmaker.

Carlos Ghosn, who was arrested on Monday, pictured earlier this year at an event in the US [Steve Marcus/Reuters]

Amid growing uncertainty over the future of the alliance, finance ministers of Japan and France are also due to meet in Paris on Thursday.

Renault has refrained from removing Ghosn from his position, although he remains in detention along with Representative Director Greg Kelly, whom Nissan also accuses of financial misconduct.

Break-up ‘impossible’

“For me, the future of the alliance is the bigger deal,” one senior Nissan official told reporters on Wednesday when asked about Ghosn’s arrest. “It’s obvious that in this age, we need to do things together. To part would be impossible.”

Nissan’s board meeting will be held sometime after 16:00 local time (15:00 GMT) at its headquarters in Yokohama and the company is likely to issue a statement afterwards, the official said, requesting anonymity as the details were confidential.

Renault executives are expected to join by video conference.

Nissan said on Monday an internal investigation triggered by a tip-off from a whistle-blower had revealed that Ghosn had been engaged in wrongdoing for years, including the personal use of company money and under-reporting of his earnings.

Japanese prosecutors said he and Kelly conspired to understate Ghosn’s compensation at Nissan over five years from 2010, saying it was about half the actual amount of 10 bn yen.

Ghosn and Kelly have not commented on the accusations and Reuters has not been able to reach them.

The Asahi Shimbun said on Thursday, quoting unnamed sources, that Ghosn had given Kelly orders by email to make false statements on his remuneration. Tokyo prosecutors likely seized the related emails and may use them as evidence, the report said.

The Yomiuri, Japan’s biggest-circulation daily, cited unnamed sources as saying that Nissan’s internal investigation found that Ghosn had since 2002 instructed that about $100,000 a year be paid to his elder sister as remuneration for a non-existent ‘advisory role’.

Source: Reuters

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