Ghosn Gone: Jailed Exec Hands Over Renault, Closing the Last Chapter in His Alliance Reign

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

After an unceremonious booting from the chairman role at Nissan and Mitsubishi, Carlos Ghosn’s departure from alliance member Renault was more orderly. As expected, the French automaker’s board accepted the jailed executive’s resignation Thursday, handing over the CEO and chairman roles to Thierry Bolloré and Michelin CEO Jean-Dominique Senard, respectively.

After building an alliance marrying two major automakers, saving Renault and bolstering Nissan in the process, Ghosn had to leave to save the relationship. There really wasn’t much choice. Tokyo judges kiboshed several attempts to secure bail for the industry titan, who currently resides in a sparse jail cell awaiting trial. The French government, which holds a 15 percent stake in Renault, withdrew its support for the exec last week.

The alliance is Senard’s baby now.

While Renault named Bolloré as acting CEO following Ghosn’s Nov. 19 arrest, the full weight of managing the massive, conjoined operation falls on Senard, whose job also includes mending the sudden rift between Europe and Japan.

Speaking at the Davo economic summit, French Finance Minister Bruno La Maire told Bloomberg that job one “is to consolidate the alliance between Renault and Nissan.”

“I am sure the alliance will stay,” he stated.

Speaking of Senard, Renault said in a media release that it’s board “decides to give its Chairman full responsibility for managing the Alliance on behalf of Renault, in liaison with the Chief Executive Officer,” adding, “the new Chairman of the Board of Directors of Renault will have to evaluate and, if necessary, change Renault’s governance in order to ensure the transition to the new structure.”

Senard, 65, who was expected to step down from his position as Michelin head later this year, is viewed as a far less combative figure than Ghosn, enjoying a good relationship with the French government. Word like “reserved” and “subdued” are often used to describe the exec. At Michelin, Senard garnered high praise for open dialogue with the tire maker’s workers union. As for Bolloré, the exec started his professional career at Michelin, eventually moving to Renault in 2012.

For Ghosn, the now ex-exec faces a months-long wait before the beginning of his trail. The former alliance head faces charges of breach of trust and underreporting his income to the tune of nearly $80 million, though ongoing investigations have turned up other troubling financial discrepancies. Last week, Nissan issued a release stating Ghosn received improper payments from a Netherlands-based Nissan-Mitsubishi joint venture.

It’s not the way Ghosn, whose grip on the alliance was already lessening in the lead-up to his retirement, expected his career to end.

[Images: Nissan, Michelin]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Geozinger Geozinger on Jan 24, 2019

    "“I am sure the alliance will stay,” he stated..." Stick a fork in it, the alliance is done.

    • Conundrum Conundrum on Jan 24, 2019

      Whether the alliance breaks up in practical terms or not, the following will remain true: "Renault currently has a 43.4 percent (fully voting) stake in Nissan and Nissan holds a 15 percent (non-voting) stake in Renault effectively giving Renault control."

  • TS020 TS020 on Jan 25, 2019

    Hey, if the alliance breaks up then we might see some enthusiast cars like it's the 90's before the company goes belly up because only 6 people bought a new Silvia.

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