France plans Renault CEO search as board members disagree over Ghosn

Andrew Cummings
December 16, 2018

In Ghosn's absence, Renault will work under the temporary leadership of Thierry Bollore, who has been associated with the group since September 2012.

His legal troubles have plunged the future of the alliance he forged between Renault (RNSDF) Nissan (NSANY) and Mitsubishi Motors (MMTOF) into doubt, and cost him the chairmanship of both Japanese carmakers.

"Since there is still a decision in a higher court upholding Nissan's existing request, the current situation is that Ghosn's representatives are not entitled to enter the apartment", Nissan spokesman Nicholas Maxfield said. Nissan also alleges he diverted company funds to pay for personal expenses.

Renault's latest findings stand in stark contrast to the unfolding events at Nissan. There is a possibility that Nissan's board may not appoint a new chairman next week, as it is prioritizing setting up a governance committee, the person said. The external directors are set to meet again before next Monday's board meeting, the person said.

A preliminary review of the years 2015 to 2018 found nothing amiss on pay to the executive, who was indicted in Japan for understating his income, Renault said in a statement Thursday. Nissan says it has not opened the safes but that they may contain evidence against Ghosn, which could be lost if people close to him gained access to the apartment.

Sources told Reuters on Thursday that the French government was seeking candidates to replace Ghosn, as board members began to voice doubts about keeping him in office.

Under French government pressure, Ghosn had been exploring a deeper tie-up or even a full merger between Renault and Nissan, despite strong reservations at the Japanese vehicle maker.

He and Nissan were charged Monday with violating financial laws by underreporting Ghosn's pay by about 5 billion yen ($44 million) in 2011-2015.

Defence arguments advanced by Ghosn's lawyers and supporters have not contested the plans' existence.

Nissan is 43.4 percent owned by Renault.

Ghosn and an alleged accomplice, Nissan director Greg Kelly, remain in custody and have had limited opportunity to respond to the allegations or defend themselves, particularly in public.

Macron is conscious of the importance of the Renault Nissan Mitsubishi to France.

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