Nissan's Shareholder Meeting Sure Sucked for Renault's Chairman
Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard could have had a better time at Nissan’s shareholder meeting last week. New details of the event have come to us via Automotive News and they’re helping to showcase just how fractured the Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance has become. While returning Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa focused on developing a succession plan for upper management, Senard attempted to appease an angry mob of Japanese shareholders who have absolutely had it with France.
As there was no exit poll for the event, we’ve no idea how many shareholders have it in for la République. But numerous accounts of the event described the situation as chaotic and angry with some international bad blood on full display.
In fact, it’s our suspicion that Saikawa’s reappointment as CEO hinged (at least in part) on there being a sizable number Japanese investors that are sick of Renault and the French government pulling the strings at Nissan. Renault has a controlling 43 percent stake in the Japanese automaker, while Nissan has a 15 percent stake in Renault, with no voting rights. But Saikawa has been trying to balance power within the alliance — whether that be through overt committee reforms or via unconfirmed claims that he orchestrated the arrest of his former boss, and merger advocate, Carlos Ghosn.
At one point, a former Nissan employee publicly expressed his gratitude to Ghosn for saving Nissan from bankruptcy in 1999 and was promptly told to shut up by another shareholder — followed by some pocketed yelling.
During the fracas meeting, Saikawa hinted that he might not be with the company for long. But, before he leaves, he said he wanted to restore Nissan’s lagging profits, implement new corporate governance reforms, and fix the company’s strained relationship with Renault.
While Saikawa had to address concerns of numerous shareholders begging that he not allow Nissan to integrate with Renault any further and accusations that he has allowed the company to fail, Senard had it far worse. He was criticized by shareholders for having a phony baloney affection for Nissan and bashed for allowing Renault to even consider a merger with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles when the current state of the auto alliance leaves much to be desired.
From Automotive News:
One shareholder said he feared a foreign takeover of Nissan and took a dig at Senard’s nationality, saying “French people” often hide true intentions behind a smiling facade. “They are really sly,” the shareholder said.
“Can you behave as a Nissan director and not just as the chairman of Renault?” he asked Senard. “You would like to take advantage of the merger for Renault. That’s obvious.”
Senard’s rebuttal was emotional. He pleaded with the audience to believe that he has the automaker’s best interests at heart.
“I beg you to believe me on that,” Senard said. “There was obviously no aggressive intention.”
“The last thing that came in my mind was to be aggressive toward a company of which I am a director. I beg you to believe me on that,” he said. “There are no bad intentions at all.”
Senard defended the proposed merger with FCA, saying Nissan had missed an opportunity. “You know who was very pleased after the announcement that this deal was stopped? All our competitors in the world,” he said. “They understood that if this deal had gone through, it would have been a very, very strong feature for the alliance.”
This was, reportedly, not met with much praise from the Japanese crowd. But at least Senard seems aware that the Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance is in real trouble. He told audience their corporate relationship was in “much worse state” than he thought.
However, that statement was likely for the benefit of Nissan’s angry shareholders. If Senard seriously just realized there are far-reaching problems between Renault and Nissan, he has no business running a car company.
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