Carlos Ghosn, Once Again Fighting From Jail, to Lose Last Nissan Title
(Bloomberg) -- Carlos Ghosn is set to lose his last title at Nissan Motor Co. after two decades with the automaker, as shareholders prepare to remove the former chairman and chief executive officer from the board following his arrest on alleged financial crimes.
Ghosn, detained in a Tokyo jail, will lose his title as director and be replaced by Renault SA Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard, who joins Nissan’s board as vice chairman. Investors are gathering to vote on the change at an extraordinary shareholders’ meeting in Tokyo on Monday that Nissan agreed to hold at the request of largest owner Renault.
Nissan, which swiftly removed Ghosn as chairman days after his Nov. 19 arrest, is trying to turn over a tumultuous chapter in its ties with Renault. The sudden arrest of the former global auto titan derailed their partnership, the world’s biggest auto alliance, as the companies were diverged initially over whether to oust Ghosn, 65. The partners set up a new alliance governance structure last month, led by Senard, 66, which is designed for smoother and more equitable decision-making.
“It looks like Renault is now on the same page with Nissan,” Tatsuo Yoshida, an analyst at Sawakami Asset Management Inc., said before the meeting. “The extraordinary shareholder meeting is just a formality. But we do want to make sure the management and governance restructuring doesn’t get delayed by any unexpected development.”
Already free on bail for almost a month, Ghosn was arrested again last week on fresh allegations that he used millions of dollars from Nissan for his own purposes and is set to be detained at least until April 14. Ghosn, who remains on the board of Renault and third alliance partner Mitsubishi Motors Corp. for the time being, faces a trial that is still months away.
Ghosn and Greg Kelly, his gatekeeper and confidant, were arrested on suspicion of financial misconduct, thanks to a whistle-blowing tip from inside Nissan. Ghosn has vigorously denied charges of transferring personal trading losses to the automaker and under-reporting his income. Kelly, who was charged as a co-conspirator, is also free on bail and has denied wrongdoing. Nissan was charged in December for understating Ghosn’s income.
Nissan has said its internal investigation has uncovered “substantial evidence of blatantly unethical conduct” by Ghosn. The company received a report from an external panel last month, which said the former chairman’s long tenure at Nissan led to power being “concentrated in his hands” and called for measures to improve the carmaker’s governance.
Further down the road, Nissan and Renault may seek to address the imbalance in their capital ties that has been a source of tension between the companies, Yoshida said. Renault has a 43 percent voting stake in Nissan, which has no reciprocal rights with its 15 percent stake in its French partner.
“The complete overhaul of the alliance structure is on their agenda, but maybe it’s not an immediate item,” Yoshida said. “There’s no need for them to tackle it now.”
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