Carlos Ghosn blasts Nissan Renault as retreating to ‘mini’ deals

Gupta gone

Gupta left after being removed from the company’s board of directors. His departure came amid reports of a power struggle with current CEO Makoto Uchida and speculation of disenchantment with what some insiders perceived as a hardball approach to talks with Renault.

There were suspicions of unspecified misconduct, and Nissan said it had been hired outside, independent parties to investigate.

“This soap opera of the defenestration of Gupta has been, frankly, laughable,” Ghosn said. “I understood that there was a new corporate governance, with new rules, with a lot of transparency. All of this was, frankly, a story for idiots. The cloak and dagger continues.”

Ghosn maintains that he was arrested on trumped-up charges concocted by a group of Nissan nationalists bent on blocking further integration with Renault.

Relations between the two companies soured after his arrest and ousting. And the companies have been trying to broker a rebalancing of their longstanding cross-shareholdings.

Since late last year, Nissan and Renault have been trying to finalize a deal that would rebalance Renault’s controlling 43 percent stake in Nissan and the Japanese company’s nonvoting 15 percent stake in Renault. In early February, they reached an agreement in which Renault would reduce its stake in Nissan to 15 percent in exchange for Nissan taking up to 15 percent in its Ampere EV unit.

But months later, the partners still haven’t announced a finalized deal on the holdings.

Nissan spokesman Shiro Nagai said the Japanese company declined to comment on Ghosn’s assessment. He added that although the company is aware of media reports about Ghosn’s $1 billion lawsuit against the carmaker, it also doesn’t comment on active legal proceedings.

‘Not a turkey’

Ghosn’s lawsuit Nissan and multiple former and current targets executives. According to media reports, the roster of defendants includes Hari Nada, the former head of the CEO office who took a plea bargain to testify against Ghosn, Motoo Nagai, a board member who is currently chair of the audit committee, and Hiroto Saikawa, the longtime Ghosn protege who was CEO of Nissan at the time of Ghosn’s arrest.

Ghosn’s claim seeks lost compensation and punitive rewards. A timeline for the proceedings is unclear. It is uncertain how any ruling in Ghosn’s favor from a Lebanese judicial jurisdiction might be enforced against Nissan as a corporate entity or individuals outside the country.

Back in Japan, prosecutors accused Ghosn and former American director Greg Kelly of hiding some $80.5 million in postponed Ghosn compensation from 2010 to 2018.

Both men, arrested the same day in November 2018, denied doing wrong.

In March 2022, Kelly was cleared by a Japanese criminal court in seven of the eight years Nissan alleged financial misconduct. Kelly was given a suspended sentence and allowed to return to the US, but only after being jailed in Japan and then grounded in the country on bail for more than three years while he fought the charges in court.

Ghosn, who was indicted on additional criminal breach of trust charges not filed against Kelly, remains pinned down in his ancestral homeland of Lebanon after fleeing Japan in a dramatic dark-of-night escape, hidden in a box, in December 2019.

Ghosn, who holds a Lebanese passport, has been holed up in the country since Japan issued an Interpol red notice for his arrest. Lebanon doesn’t extradite its citizens.

Asked at the press conference whether he regretted jumping bail, Ghosn was emphatic that he could never get a fair trial in Japan and that bolting the country was his only option.

“I’m not an idiot. I’m not a turkey,” he said. “Did I lose moral ground? Maybe.”

“This is the best solution for me, and I don’t regret it.”

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