January 24, 2019
By Laurence Frost and Gilles Guillaume
PARIS (Reuters) – Renault’s <RENA.PA> board will meet on Thursday to replace Chairman and Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn, in a move that could help ease tensions with alliance partner Nissan following Ghosn’s arrest in Japan for alleged financial misconduct.
The meeting will start at 0900 GMT and consider the proposed appointment of outgoing Michelin <MICP.PA> boss Jean-Dominique Senard as chairman and the promotion of Ghosn’s deputy Thierry Bollore to CEO, three sources familiar with the matter have told Reuters.
The French carmaker has confirmed an emergency board meeting is planned for Thursday, but declined to comment on its agenda.
The decision, two months after Ghosn’s Nov. 19 arrest and swift dismissal as Nissan <7201.T> chairman, turns a page on his two decades at the helm of the partnership he transformed into a global carmaking giant, following Renault’s acquisition of a near-bankrupt Nissan in 1999.
Ghosn has been charged with failing to disclose more than $80 million in additional Nissan compensation for 2010-18 that he had arranged to be paid later. Nissan director Greg Kelly and the Japanese company itself have also been indicted.
Both men deny the deferred pay agreements were illegal or required disclosure. Ghosn has also denied a separate breach of trust charge over personal investment losses he temporarily transferred to Nissan in 2008. Nissan has said it takes the matter seriously and pledged to improve corporate governance.
Ghosn has now agreed to resign from Renault, the sources said – but only after the French government, its biggest shareholder, called for leadership change and his bail requests were rejected by the Japanese courts.
As of late Tuesday, however, no formal resignation had been received, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said.
Senard, 65, faces the immediate task of soothing relations with Nissan, which is 43.4 percent-owned by Renault and the junior partner in the alliance despite making more sales.
Since Ghosn’s arrest, Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa has sought to weaken Renault’s control and resisted its attempts to nominate new directors to the Japanese company’s board.
Nissan currently owns a 15 percent non-voting stake in its French parent and 34 percent in Mitsubishi Motors <7211.T>, a third major partner in their manufacturing alliance.
(Editing by Mark Potter and Elaine Hardcastle)