File Photo: Chairman and CEO of Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Carlos Ghosn gestures as he delivers a speech during a visit of French President at the Renault factory, in Maubeuge, northern France. (Photo: AFP)
Nissan’s board ousted Chairman Carlos Ghosn on Thursday after the shock arrest of the industry heavyweight, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported without citing sources, ushering in a period of uncertainty for its 19-year alliance with Renault.
The Franco-Japanese alliance, enlarged in 2016 to include Japan’s Mitsubishi Motors, has been rattled to its core by Ghosn’s arrest in Japan on Monday, with the 64-year-old group chairman accused of financial misconduct.
Ghosn had shaped the alliance and was pushing for a deeper tie-up, including potentially a full Renault-Nissan merger at the French government’s urging, despite strong reservations at the Japanese firm.
Japanese prosecutors said Ghosn and Representative Director Greg Kelly, who has also been arrested, conspired to understate Ghosn’s compensation at Nissan over five years from 2010, saying it was about half the actual 10 billion yen ($88 million).
Shin Kukimoto, deputy public prosecutor at the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office, said on Thursday that court approval was received a day earlier to detain Ghosn for 10 days but he could not comment on whether he had admitted to the allegations.
Nissan executives have five seats on the nine-member board, Renault loyalists have two seats and the remaining two are held by unaffiliated outside directors, a former bureaucrat and a race driver.
With Ghosn and Kelly still in detention, neither of the men were able to vote or defend themselves at the meeting.
Renault has refrained from firing Ghosn as chairman and CEO, although he remains in detention along with Kelly, whom Nissan also accuses of financial misconduct.
But Mitsubishi Motors plans to remove Ghosn from his post of chairman at a board meeting next week.
Amid growing uncertainty over the future of the alliance, Japan’s industry minister and France’s finance minister are due to meet in Paris on Thursday to seek ways to stabilise it.
“For me, the future of the alliance is the bigger deal,” a senior Nissan official told reporters on Wednesday, when asked about Ghosn’s arrest. “It’s obvious that in this age, we need to do things together. To part would be impossible.”