Nissan board to announce fate of chairman Carlos Ghosn on Thursday

Foreign press outside the Nissan HQ in Yokohama await the board meeting announcement.
Foreign press outside the Nissan HQ in Yokohama await the board meeting announcement.ST PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER TAN
Camera crew outside the Nissan HQ in Yokohama on Nov 22, 2018.
Camera crew outside the Nissan HQ in Yokohama on Nov 22, 2018. ST PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER TAN

YOKOHAMA - In what is expected to be a formality, the Nissan board will announce, within hours, its decision on the fate of its chairman, Mr Carlos Ghosn.

Mr Ghosn, celebrated leader of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance, is widely expected to be dismissed as chairman.

In an earlier statement, Nissan said its chief executive, Mr Hiroto Saikawa, will propose to the Board to "promptly remove Ghosn from his positions as chairman and representative director. Saikawa will also propose the removal of Greg Kelly from his position as representative director".

Mr Kelly is the first American to sit on the Japanese carmaker's board.

Nissan said it had uncovered wrongdoings after "months of investigation", including Mr Ghosn allegedly misusing company assets and under-reporting his income to the authorities.

The probe stemmed from a whistle-blower report, said the carmaker.

Mr Ghosn, who was arrested on Monday (Nov 19) on his return to Japan from a business trip, has remained in police custody but has not been charged yet.

 
 
 

On Thursday, deputy public prosecutor Shin Kukimoto at the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office said that court approval was received a day earlier to detain Mr Ghosn for 10 days but he could not comment on whether he had admitted to the allegations, according to Reuters.

Mr Ghosn engineered the revival of Nissan and its crossholding with Renault 20 years ago, roping Mitsubishi into the alliance in recent years.

Nissan said it had uncovered wrongdoings after "months of investigation".

"The investigation showed that over many years both Ghosn and Kelly have been reporting compensation amounts in the Tokyo Stock Exchange securities report that were less than the actual amount, in order to reduce the disclosed amount of Carlos Ghosn's compensation.

"Also, in regards to Ghosn, numerous other significant acts of misconduct have been uncovered, such as personal use of company assets, and Kelly's deep involvement has also been confirmed," said Nissan in its statement.

In a move uncharacteristic of Japanese corporate chiefs, Mr Saikawa said he felt "despair, indignation and resentment" at a press conference on Monday.

Meanwhile, speculation that Mr Ghosn was set up went into overdrive when The Financial Times reported on Wednesday that Mr Ghosn was planning a full merger between Renault and Nissan. Quoting sources close to the board, FT said Nissan was opposed to the move and was looking for ways to block it.

A full merger would likely result in a consolidation of senior positions within Japan's second largest carmaker.

It would result in Renault, which now holds a 43 per cent of Nissan, taking the driver's seat.