Corporate Coup? Renault Officially Needs a New CEO

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Renault’s board of directors met today to decide the fate of CEO Thierry Bolloré. Though we should say ex-CEO, because they fired him.

As the most recent executive to become subject to the management shakeup that’s bent on removing anyone within the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance with ties to defamed founder Carlos Ghosn, Bolloré called the board’s decision surprising ( it wasn’t). Speaking with France’s Les Échos, he contended that he was more concerned with the wellbeing of Renault than corporate politics and expressed fears that the alliance could be falling apart as Japan aggressively seeks to remove more Ghosn-era hires.

“I appeal to the highest level of the State shareholder, guarantor of the rules of good governance, not to destabilize Renault, flagship of our French industry,” he said. “This coup is very disturbing, it is very important to understand the ins and outs of what is happening in Japan.”

Bolloré was selected by Ghosn as his apparent successor and, after doing time as the Renault’s COO, ended up being appointed as CEO just two months after Ghosn’s arrest in November of 2018. While there have been no formal accusations leveled against Bolloré, other high-ranking alliance members have become wrapped up in the scandal — including former Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa.

According to Bolloré, his ties to that group are the only items Renault could possibly hold against him — noting that the board had unanimously endorsed his placement as COO. He also addressed rumors that Renault’s chairman, Jean-Dominique Senard, had aggressively been pressing for the ouster and was never liked him.

“I boarded a plane in Tokyo on Tuesday night and landing at 4 am in Paris on Wednesday. I learned through the press that President Jean-Dominique Senard, who until then had been saying there was not a sheet of cigarette paper between us, wanted me to leave,” Bolloré recalled. “I have always been loyal to him.”

Insider sources have confirmed Senard’s disdain was legitimate, adding that some of the company’s top brass also blamed Bolloré for declines in Renault’s financial performance. The man himself said that was ridiculous.

“This is all the more inexplicable because Renault is one of the very few car manufacturers that has not made a profit warning despite the sectoral crisis we are facing. We have anticipated on the electric vehicle [front] and will not pay penalties related to the new [emission] standards. Despite the shocks that have weakened our alliance with Nissan since last November, we have entered into strategic partnerships with Google and Waymo. And on the industrial front, Daimler-Mercedes also continues to trust us,” he said.

Renault has decided to tap Clotilde Delbos as its chief executive officer until a suitable replacement can be found. She’ll be assisted by Olivier Murguet and José-Vicente de los Mozos, who will serve as deputy directors. Of the three, Delbos is the newest to both Renault and the automotive industry. She joined the company in 2012, coming from a background in industrial finance, and will continue serving as the automaker’s chief financial officer while taking over for Bolloré.

[Image: josefkubes/Shutterstock]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Jeff S Jeff S on Oct 13, 2019

    @Lorenzo--Agree. The Japanese Government should take over Nissan and reach a settlement with Renault to repurchase their Nissan shares and to sell back to Renault any Renault shares that Nissan holds. A new company formed from a merger of Nissan-Mitsubishi would be better. The French are known for their bad weirdly styled vehicles and bad cigarettes. Get the new company on its feet and then privize it as a Japanese company.

    • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Oct 13, 2019

      The problem is that Japanese taxpayers have to foot the bill when Japanese economy is on brink of collapse, They can hardly afford any more debt. P.S. And yeah, home prices will never go down and housing market is a backbone of American economy and will never collapse. And big banks will never fail either. How that turned out?

  • Schmitt trigger Schmitt trigger on Oct 14, 2019

    This is a slow moving train wreck. I sincerely don't know what will happen in the future, but my guess (and it is only a wild guess) is that both Renault and Nissan will be forcibly merged with another company. The former with PSA, the latter with Toyota or Honda.

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