Nissan fails to choose new chairman to replace Ghosn

December 4, 2018 08:36 CET
UPDATED: Dec 4 14:07 CET – adds details

TOKYO — Nissan’s independent board members failed on Tuesday to nominate a successor to Carlos Ghosn as chairman in the wake of his arrest and dismissal for alleged financial misconduct, Reuters and Kyodo News reported.

A three-member panel of external Nissan directors put off a decision on recommending a replacement for the jailed Ghosn, a source familiar with the situation told Reuters.

Nissan has tasked former trade and industry bureaucrat Masakazu Toyoda, retired Renault executive Jean-Baptiste Duzan and race car driver Keiko Ihara with the selection, which is to be submitted to the rest of the board at their next meeting on Dec. 17.

Their choice to replace the ousted car titan, who sits in a Japanese jail, will indicate the direction the automaker’s alliance with Renault will take.

The most likely successors fall on each end of the spectrum: Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa, who has emerged as a driving force behind the investigation into Ghosn’s financial reporting, and Toshiyuki Shiga, a former Ghosn confidante, sources said.

Nissan earlier rejected external candidates suggested by Renault, Bloomberg reported. The independent directors have said they will choose an existing board member as the next chairman.

At stake is the direction of the world’s biggest car alliance between Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi Motors, as differences surface among the companies that Ghosn’s leadership held together.

Saikawa’s ascendance to the position of chairman would solidify his power at Nissan, which wants to push for a more equitable partnership with Renault in their alliance after Ghosn’s ouster. The balance of power at Nissan is now tilted toward Saikawa, who has turned from a former Ghosn protege into one of the most vocal critics of his alleged wrongdoing. Shiga’s selection would likely result in more collective management of Nissan.

Renault is the largest shareholder of Nissan and has voting rights in the company. Nissan is the second-largest shareholder in the French company, but has no power to vote. That has created an imbalance which has worsened over the years with Nissan’s success in markets like China and the U.S., where the French carmaker is absent.

A Nissan representative declined to comment on the directors’ meeting and the chairman candidates.

Ghosn was arrested Nov. 19 in Tokyo on allegations by Nissan of under-reporting his income and misusing company money for personal use. He will likely be re-arrested next week as prosecutors add a fresh claim, people familiar with the investigation said.

Ghosn was dismissed as chairman of Nissan on Nov. 22 in a stunning downfall for the jet-setting executive. While Mitsubishi also ousted Ghosn, Renault refused to remove the 64-year-old as CEO, and instead named chief operating officer Thierry Bollore as interim leader.

Bloomberg and Reuters contributed to this report

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