Shareholders Boot Carlos Ghosn From Nissan Board
Nissan wasted no time in dropping Carlos Ghosn as company chairman after his initial November arrest, but the nature of business meant shareholders had to meet to vote him off the board. That meeting took place Monday morning in a Tokyo hotel.
There, some 4,119 shareholders gathered to break Ghosn’s last tie to the company he commanded for two decades. They also put some heat on company brass.
During the meeting, shareholders heard an apology from Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa, who recently announced his plan to forego retirement and stay on as chief executive.
“We have to admit that there was a significant problem with our corporate governance,” Saikawa said, adding that he was “extremely shocked when I learned of the misconduct.”
Alliance partner Renault waited for more evidence before dropping Ghosn as chairman and CEO, while Mitsubishi cut Ghosn loose as chairman around the same time as Nissan. Also gone from Nissan’s board is Greg Kelly, former representative director and Ghosn’s right-hand man. Japanese authorities nabbed Kelly on the same financial misconduct charges as Ghosn, alleging the aide conspired to underreport Ghosn’s income to Japanese regulators.
Ghosn, 65, has racked up three charges and four arrests, the most recent coming last week, immediately before the ousted exec planned to air his story in a media broadcast. In an act of alliance fence-mending, Nissan shareholders placed newly minted Renault chairman Jean-Dominique Senard in Ghosn’s vacated director position.
The latest charge is a convoluted one, but it basically amounts to improper use of Nissan funds. According to prosecutors, Ghosn funnelled $15 million to an Oman Nissan dealership, then used a third of that money for his own personal use. Prosecutors claim Ghosn used the $5 million to purchase a yacht.
The former chairman vigorously denies any wrongdoing, claiming the charges are part of a Nissan-orchestrated plot to oust him from the company he helped save.
Many shareholders present at Monday’s meeting preferred to see a cleaner sweep of Nissan’s upper ranks, but Saikawa held firm, claiming his presence was needed to solidify the shaky alliance.
“Once I’ve done these things thoroughly and the situation has moved to the point where we can pass the torch … I’ll think about what to do with myself,” he told the room.
More developments in the Ghosn saga arose in recent days. First, Nissan’s board moved to strip Ghson of his no doubt hefty pension; second, Renault’s Ethics and Compliance Department delivered its report into potential financial misconduct on the part of its former CEO. The automaker’s board reports “potential issues concerning payments made to one of Renault’s distributors in the Middle East.”
Meanwhile, Ghosn’s wife, who has strongly condemned her husband’s treatment at the hands of Japanese authorities, fled Japan on the weekend. Claiming she “felt in danger” after her husband’s masot recent arrest, Carole Ghosn made her way out of the country with the help of the French ambassador.
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