Renault keeps Ghosn as chief executive despite arrest in Japan

Renault says it has decided to retain chief executive Carlos Ghosn despite his arrest in Japan on allegations that he misused assets of partner Nissan and misreported his income.

Renault’s board of directors announced that the number two at the company, chief operating officer Thierry Bollore, would temporarily fill in for Ghosn.

“Mr Ghosn, temporarily incapacitated, remains chairman and chief executive officer,” a statement from Renault’s board said. While Ghosn deals with his legal issues in Japan, Mr Bollore will have the same authority to run the company as the CEO, it added.

Renault’s board said its decision was made with an eye towards keeping the company on a steady course “to preserve the interests of the group and the continuity of its operations”.

Thierry Bollore
Thierry Bollore (Michel Euler/AP)

Ghosn runs Renault, Nissan and the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance that he helped turn into the world’s biggest car-seller last year, and France and Japan want to keep it intact.

Renault’s move to appoint a temporary leader was in line with a demand by the French government, which owns a 15% stake in the firm. Finance minister Bruno Le Maire had said earlier that Ghosn was not in position to lead the Renault Group while fighting the accusations in Japan.

The French car maker said after an emergency meeting of its board of directors in Paris that it would further consolidate its alliance with Nissan. The two firms have a partnership with smaller car maker Mitsubishi.

Asked about reports that Nissan and Renault had been on the verge of merging, Nissan’s chief executive Hiroto Saikawa told reporters he had not heard of such a plan.

There was no update on Wednesday in Tokyo from prosecutors on Ghosn’s case, and no public word from Ghosn himself. It was unclear where he was being held following his arrest on Monday.

Nissan’s board of directors is due to meet on Thursday and expected to approve a proposal to dismiss Ghosn as its chairman and another executive, representative director Greg Kelly, who is alleged to have collaborated with his boss in falsifying financial reports.

Earlier this year, Ghosn signed a contract that would have run until 2022.

Renault’s board said it is requesting that Nissan pass along details of its investigation into Ghosn’s alleged wrongdoing. Mr Le Maire said authorities have examined Ghosn’s tax situation in France but have found no wrongdoing.

Japanese prosecutors said they were holding Ghosn, 64, for allegedly collaborating to falsify securities statements and underreporting 44.6 million dollars in income from 2011 to 2015.