The board of directors at Nissan has voted to dismiss Chairman Carlos Ghosn, after his arrest in Japan on suspicion of financial misconduct.
The decision was announced following an emergency meeting of the board on Thursday, based on information gathered during an internal investigation at Nissan.
The suspicions raised include under-reporting his salary and reportedly relate to a string of properties purchased for his private use with Nissan funds. According to Japanese prosecutors, the activities Ghosn is suspected of would, if true, constitute a “heavy crime”.
Along with the decision to “discharge” Ghosn, the board at Nissan also dismissed representative director Greg Kelly for his involvement. A special committee of independent directors will be created to inspect Nissan management structure. A separate committee has been tasked with proposing replacements for Ghosn and Kelly. Current Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa has been tipped to take on Ghosn’s role.
The Japanese company’s decision to dismiss Ghosn is at odds with Renault’s approach. The part-owner and major partner in the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance’s board elected to keep Ghosn in place as its chairman and CEO – instead making a series of 'transitional governance measures'. It has also asked alliance partner Nissan to share the information gathered by the Japanese firm's internal investigation.
This move could put a strain on the alliance. Reports have implied that key figures within Nissan were involved in reporting the crimes to Japanese prosecutors in order to stop the Ghosn-led effort for Renault to take full control of the Japanese company.
The statement issued by Nissan on Ghosn and Kelly’s dismissal said, “The board confirmed that the long-standing Alliance partnership with Renault remains unchanged and that the mission is to minimise the potential impact and confusion on the day-to-day cooperation among the Alliance partners.”
Meanwhile, a representative of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office told reporters in Japan that Ghosn is being held at the Tokyo Detention Centre. The courts have approved for his detention to be extended by another 10 days.
Renault asks Nissan for evidence
Tuesday’s Renault board meeting was chaired by Renault's lead independent director, Philippe Lagayette. Following the meeting, Renault said it had "adopted transitional governance measures to preserve the interests of the Group and the continuity of its operations."
Lagayette will continue to chair board meetings, while Thierry Bolloré, Renault's chief operating officer, has been named deputy CEO. Bolloré will take on the day-to-day management of the company, with "the same powers" as Ghosn.
The statement also said, "At this stage, the Board is unable to comment on the evidence seemingly gathered against Ghosn by Nissan and the Japanese judicial authorities. Ghosn, temporarily incapacitated, remains Chairman and Chief Executive Officer."
The French firm said that the board will hold regular meetings while the investigation against Ghosn continues, to "protect the interests of Renault and the sustainability of the Alliance. The Board decided to request Nissan, on the basis of the principles of transparence, trust and mutual respect set forth in the Alliance Charter, to provide all information in their possession arising from the internal investigations related to Ghosn."
Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa said he felt "despair, indignation and resentment" at Ghosn's alleged actions. However, Saikawa did say Nissan was committed to the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, which was later echoed in Renault's statement.