TOKYO (Reuters) – When the three leaders of the world’s top car-making alliance gather in Japan on Tuesday, they will be looking to secure a partnership that was built by former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn and then possibly imperilled by his ouster.
FILE PHOTO – Carlos Ghosn, Chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, gestures as he speaks during the presentation of the Renault’s new Alpine sports concept car “Vision” in Monaco February 16, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
A Tokyo court on Monday rejected Ghosn’s request to attend Nissan’s board meeting, denying him a seat at the table even as the car maker looks set to bolster the alliance with France’s Renault and Mitsubishi Motors that Ghosn drove for over two decades.
Released on a $9 million bail last week after spending more than 100 days in a Tokyo detention center, Ghosn faces charges of under-reporting his salary at Nissan by about $82 million over nearly a decade – charges he has called “meritless”.
In the wake of the scandal, Renault has started its own review of payments to Ghosn. French prosecutors have opened a preliminary inquiry into how he financed his 2016 wedding at the Chateau de Versailles, French media have reported.
His dramatic arrest in November and the detention have exposed tensions between Nissan and its top shareholder Renault, muddying the outlook for the future of the alliance – the world’s largest maker of automobiles, excluding heavy trucks.
“Mr. Ghosn is disappointed that the court denied his request to attend the Nissan board of directors meeting,” his spokesman said in a statement on Tuesday.
“As an elected member of the board, Mr. Ghosn stands ready to fulfill his professional duties to the shareholders who elected him,” the statement said.
“It is unfortunate that the meritless and unsubstantiated accusations against him have blocked his ideas and perspective from being deployed in service of the company he served for the past twenty years.”
Some at Nissan had been unhappy with Ghosn’s push for a deeper tie-up with Renault, which was seen as possibly including a full merger. Smaller Renault owns 43 percent of Nissan after rescuing the Japanese company from near-bankruptcy in 1999.
Nissan holds a 15 percent, non-voting stake in Renault, whose top shareholder is the French government.
While Ghosn himself has cast the charges against him as a boardroom coup, there are clear signs emerging that the alliance looks set to continue.
Renault on Monday confirmed it was in talks with Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors about setting up a new alliance body to improve their collaboration.
“The proposed arrangement will have no impact on the existence of the (alliance agreement) and the cross-shareholding structure, which will both remain in place,” Renault said.
Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi plan to set up a joint board meeting structure under which Renault’s new chairman, Jean-Dominique Senard, is likely to take the chair, people with direct knowledge of the matter have told Reuters.
That would replace Dutch-based companies currently linking Nissan and Renault and, separately, Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors, the people said.
The heads of the partners will hold a news briefing at Nissan’s Yokohama headquarters on Tuesday, Nissan said. That is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. (0730 GMT).
Reporting by David Dolan, additonal reporting by William Mallard; Editing by Stephen Coates and Himani Sarkar