Nissan CEO feels 'resentment, dismay' over Ghosn scandal

Mr Hiroto Saikawa says he would like to apologise to Nissan's customers.
Mr Hiroto Saikawa says he would like to apologise to Nissan's customers.PHOTO: REUTERS

CEO, in memo to staff, also expresses regret for letting down company's business partners

PARIS/TOKYO • Nissan chief Hiroto Saikawa has spoken of his "resentment and dismay" at revelations of misconduct by former company chief Carlos Ghosn in an internal memo to company employees.

Mr Saikawa said he could not reveal all details of what had happened because the case was still under investigation.

The CEO said that as someone who had devoted himself to the Nissan revival plan, "I am left with great resentment and dismay that is difficult to articulate".

"I truly regret, and would like to apologise for us betraying and completely letting down our customers, business partners and other stakeholders who supported us after our revival," he wrote.

The memo invites all staff to a "town hall" meeting tomorrow to discuss the future of the company.

Nissan last week accused Mr Ghosn of under-reporting compensation amounts, misrepresenting the firm's investments and using company assets for personal gain.

It also accused representative director Greg Kelly of having masterminded the fraud with Mr Ghosn.

In his first reported comments since his arrest last Monday, Mr Kelly defended Mr Ghosn's compensation, saying it was discussed with other officials and paid out appropriately, reported Japanese public broadcaster NHK yesterday.

Mr Kelly was also quoted by NHK as saying he had worked for the good of Nissan rather than just following Mr Ghosn's instructions.

 
 
 

Japanese prosecutors say Mr Ghosn and Mr Kelly conspired to understate Mr Ghosn's remuneration by about half the 10 billion yen (S$121 million) he earned at Nissan over five years from 2010.

The company has also cited other infractions.

"The former chairman's compensation was discussed with those in the related department and carried out appropriately. I was not just following the former chairman's orders, but working for the good of the company," Mr Kelly said, according to the NHK report.

Nissan's board voted unanimously last Thursday to remove Mr Ghosn and Mr Kelly from their positions. Although the board sacked both men, it also made it clear the firm's alliance with Renault and Mitsubishi would survive.

Renault's board has so far stood by Mr Ghosn, naming his deputy Thierry Bollore to handle day-to-day business.

The board of Mitsubishi Motors is reportedly set to meet tomorrow to discuss Mr Ghosn's future.

According to the Washington Post, Nissan will seek a review of the shareholding structure of its alliance with Renault, moving to create a more equitable partnership between the two carmakers, according people familiar with the plans.

The review will cover the issue of voting rights, the people told the Post, asking not to be identified as the information is not public.

Renault has more influence in Nissan than the Japanese company has in its French partner, creating an imbalance in their two-decade-long relationship. The plan signals Nissan is moving swiftly to gain a stronger position in the alliance, with Mr Ghosn out of the picture.

The balance of power at Nissan is now tilted towards Mr Saikawa.

Japan's deputy chief prosecutor Shin Kukimoto said the Ghosn case was "one of the most serious types of crime" under Japan's Financial Instruments Act, and that Mr Ghosn could face up to 10 years in jail.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, WASHINGTON POST

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 25, 2018, with the headline 'Nissan CEO feels 'resentment, dismay' over Ghosn scandal'. Print Edition | Subscribe