Carlos Ghosn sought and failed to participate in a board meeting at Nissan that has the potential to reform the course of its three-way alliance with Renault and Mitsubishi Motors.
The automakers are intending to create a single board for the alliance that will supervise its governance and operations, Renault said in a statement Monday. As designer of the structure and former chairman of all three companies, Ghosn was aiming to join Nissan’s meeting Tuesday to clarify himself personally to fellow directors.
The Tokyo District Court rejected his request, saying that it would violate the condition of his bail forbidding him from contacting people involved in the charges against him for allegedly falsifying financial records and breach of trust.
The decision averted what would have been a dramatic face-off between Ghosn and the colleagues he has accused of inciting a coup. Some Nissan executives had been unhappy with Ghosn’s push for a closer tie-up with Renault, entailing possibly a full merger.
If Ghosn’s request had been approved, he would have been expected to dial into the meeting via teleconference, given the conditions of his bail, according to a person familiar with Nissan’s thinking. Ghosn’s attorneys may appeal the court decision, his lead lawyer, Junichiro Hironaka, said, adding that Nissan had strongly opposed his attendance.
New alliance board
Renault said the new body will have no influence on the existence of the RAMA (Restated Alliance Master Agreement) and the alliance’s cross-shareholding structure.
The group will take the place of two separate Amsterdam-based alliance entities, Renault-Nissan BV and Nissan-Mitsubishi BV, people acquainted with the matter said, asking not to be identified because the information is not yet public.
Nissan’s board plans to meet to discuss the matter as early as Tuesday and an announcement could be made not long after, the people said.
Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard will most likely chair the new committee, one of the people said.
The plan is targeted at promoting more balanced decision-making represented by Senard, Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa and Mitsubishi Motors CEO Osamu Masuko.
The current framework is considered as obscure and outdated in its operations, with the automaker’s own investigations having found that former Chairman Ghosn channelled money from the Dutch units. Ghosn has said the claims of improper payments were a “distortion of reality.”
Ghosn is maintaining a low profile since his release last week on a $9 million bail after more than 100 days in detention in Tokyo. Ghosn faces charges of under-reporting his earning at Nissan by about $82 million over nearly a decade, charges he has called “meritless.”.
With the start of Ghosn’s trial still months away and the drama of his release declining, attention is switching back to the fate of Nissan and how the auto executive will utilize his hard-won freedom, even though under strict bail terms.
As Nissan’s CEO, Ghosn actively interacted with the press and most likely will strive to make the case for his innocence in interviews and possibly a press conference as early as this week. He previously gave several jailhouse interviews to French and Japanese media.
Japan’s media revealed on Ghosn sightings around Tokyo, but he has yet to give an interview or speak personally to the press since his release. Rather, he’s turning to an “All-Star” team of lawyers to interact with the general public as they plan his defense.
Ghosn was stripped of his titles, he remains a director at Nissan and Renault. A meeting of Nissan shareholders set for April 8 will vote on whether to remove him from the board.
The bigger query is whether an intended merger between Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi will materialize. Nissan is said to have sought a review of the pact’s lopsided power structure that favored Renault, the two have pledged their allegiance to each other with plans to extend a two-decade accord.
“Now that Ghosn’s influential leadership is gone, there’ is a risk that each party will become more sharply focused on their self-interests,” said Tatsuo Yoshida, an analyst at Sawakami Asset Management. “They need to have a structure where decisions are made transparently.”.
Reuters contributed to this report.