Nissan chief resigns and successor to be named, says board

Hiroto Saikawa is embroiled in the pay scandal that toppled his predecessor, Carlos Ghosn.

Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa
Outgoing Nissan President Hiroto Saikawa, who has not been charged, said he did not know about financial improprieties and promised to return the money [File: Issei Kato/Reuters]

Nissan Motor Company President Hiroto Saikawa has tendered his resignation after acknowledging that he had received dubious income, and he has pledged to pass the leadership of the Japanese carmaker to a new generation.

Board chair Yasushi Kimura told reporters at an evening news conference at the company’s headquarters in Yokohama, Japan that the board has approved Saikawa’s resignation, effective September 16, and a successor will be appointed next month.

A search is for a new company president is under way, he added.

Calls for Saikawa’s resignation, which arose after the arrest last year of his predecessor Carlos Ghosn on various financial misconduct allegations, have grown louder since Saikawa acknowledged last week that he had received dubious payments.

The income was linked to the stock price of Nissan Motor Co, and Saikawa said his pay was inflated by illicitly adjusting the date for cashing in.

The carmaker’s board met to look into the allegations against Saikawa, as well as other issues related to Ghosn’s allegations and corporate ethics at the company.

Kimura said the income Saikawa had received was confirmed as “not illegal”. Ghosn, who is out on bail and awaiting trial, says he is innocent.

Kimura and three other board members, who all have backgrounds outside the company, said their investigation of the scandal over Ghosn’s arrest found that alleged misconduct by Ghosn and Greg Kelly, a former board member who was also arrested, had caused 35 billion yen ($350m) in damages to the company.

Nissan will seek repayment of the damages, Kimura said.

Hunt for successor begins

The board said about 10 candidates are being considered as potential replacements for Saikwawa. They did not identify them, but said outsiders and non-Japanese are on the list.

Until a successor is decided, Chief Operating Officer Yasuhiro Yamauchi will serve as interim chief, the board said.

Saikawa has not been charged.

“I have been trying to do what needs to be done so that I can pass the baton over as soon as possible,” he told reporters earlier on Monday, referring to his willingness to leave his job.

Saikawa was not at the news conference initially, but the board members who led the event said he would appear later.

Saikawa has said that he did not know about the improprieties, that he promised to return the money – and that he blamed dubious payments on the system he said Ghosn had created at Nissan.

Japanese media reports said Saikawa had received tens of millions of yen – or hundreds of thousands of United States dollars – in extra compensation.

Ghosn has been charged with falsifying documents on deferred compensation, which means he did not receive any of the money.

Nissan’s profits and sales have tumbled over the past year. Investors are also worried about Nissan’s relationship with alliance partner Renault SA of France, which owns 43 percent of Nissan.

Ghosn was sent in by Renault to lead Nissan two decades ago.

Source: AFP