Nissan’s board of directors has voted to dismiss Carlos Ghosn from his role as chairman, following his arrest in Japan on suspicion of financial misconduct.
The decision, announced following an emergency meeting of the board on Thursday, came after Ghosn’s arrest in Japan based on information gathered during an internal investigation at Nissan.
The suspicions relate to Ghosn’s conduct at Nissan, and include under-reporting his salary and other misconduct charges, reportedly related 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”.
As well as the decision to “discharge” Ghosn, Nissan’s board also dismissed representative director Greg Kelly for his involvement. The board also announced it was creating a special committee of independent directors to look at its management structure, with a separate committee tasked with proposing replacements for Ghosn and Kelly. Current Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa has been tipped to take on the role.
Nissan’s decision to dismiss Ghosn is at odds with the approach of Renault, its part-owner and major partner in the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance. On Tuesday, the French firm’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.
That could put a strain on the alliance partnership, with reports implying that key figures within Nissan were involved in reporting the crimes to Japanese prosecutors to stop the Ghosn-led effort for Renault to take full control of the Japanese firm.
Nissan’s statement about Ghosn and Kelly’s dismissal noted: “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 has told reporters in Japan that Ghosn is being held at the Tokyo Detention Centre, and that courts have approved for his detention to be extended by another 10 days.
Renault asks Nissan for evidence
The Renault board meeting on Tuesday was chaired by Renault's lead independent director, Philippe Lagayette. In a statement 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 the board meetings, while Thierry Bolloré, Renault's chief operating officer, has been named deputy chief executive officer and will take on day-to-day management of the firm, 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 Mr Ghosn by Nissan and the Japanese judicial authorities. Mr Ghosn, temporarily incapacitated, remains Chairman and Chief Executive Officer."