Renault names new leaders as scandal-hit Ghosn bows out

Michelin boss Jean-Dominique Senard is the new chairman of French carmaker

24 January 2019 - 15:41 By Reuters
Carlos Ghosn has resigned from Renault and remains in a Tokyo jail. Picture: REUTERS
Carlos Ghosn has resigned from Renault and remains in a Tokyo jail. Picture: REUTERS

Renault appointed Michelin boss Jean-Dominique Senard as its new chairman on Thursday, after Carlos Ghosn was forced to resign in the wake of a financial scandal that has rocked the French carmaker and its alliance with Japan's Nissan.

Senard will become chairman immediately, the company said, with deputy chief executive Thierry Bollore taking over Ghosn's other Renault role as full CEO. The appointments may begin to ease a Renault-Nissan leadership crisis that erupted after Ghosn's November 19 arrest in Japan and swift dismissal as Nissan chairman.

Senard, 65, now faces the task of soothing relations with Renault's Japanese partner and resuming talks on a new alliance structure to cement the 20-year-old partnership.

"It's important that this alliance remain extremely strong," Senard told reporters after a board meeting - citing the mounting investment demands of new vehicle technologies. "It is our compulsory duty to go forward together."

Ghosn's exit also marks a clear end to one of the auto industry's most feted careers, two decades after he was despatched by former Renault boss Louis Schweitzer to rescue newly acquired Nissan from near-bankruptcy - a feat he pulled off in two years. After 14 years as Renault CEO and a decade as chairman, Ghosn formally resigned from both roles on the eve of the board meeting.

Ghosn's arrest and indictment for financial misconduct has strained the Renault-Nissan relationship, threatening the future of the industrial partnership he transformed into a global carmaking giant over two decades.

For two months, the tensions deepened as Renault and the French government stuck by Ghosn despite claims he had arranged to be paid tens of millions of dollars in additional income, unbeknownst to shareholders. Ghosn has been charged with failing to disclose more than $80 million in additional compensation for 2010-18 that he had agreed to be paid later.

Nissan director Greg Kelly and the Japanese company itself have also been indicted. Both men deny the deferred pay was illegal or required disclosure, while not contesting the agreements' existence. 

Ghosn had agreed in recent days to step down from Renault, Reuters reported on Tuesday - but only after the French government, Renault's biggest shareholder, called for leadership change and his bail requests were rejected.

Senard, who had been due to retire from Michelin in April, now has fences to mend in Japan. Following Ghosn's arrest, Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa had sought to weaken Renault's control and resisted its attempts to nominate new directors to the Japanese carmaker's board.