Ghosn Tries to Speak With Alliance Board Over Big Changes, Blocked by Court

Rather than focus entirely on his upcoming court case, Carlos Ghosn, the former chairman of the Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance, attempted to gain access to a meeting at Nissan Motor Co. to explain himself to the board.

Unfortunately for the fallen industry titan, the Tokyo District Court said such a meeting would violate the terms of his bail by placing him in direct contact with individuals involved in the charges brought against him.

It makes sense why Ghosn wanted an audience. As the architect of the automotive alliance, he had hoped to solidify the union between Nissan and Renault through a merger. But the meeting was rumored to be aimed at developing a new board to oversee the alliance that would effectively replace the Amsterdam-based entities (Renault-Nissan BV and Nissan-Mitsubishi BV) that currently control it.

One reason to dismantle the existing structure deals directly with Ghosn’s legal battle. Internal investigations provided evidence that Ghosn may have funneled money through the Dutch units. However, Ghosn has repeatedly indicated that he believes the claimed misuse of funds were a distortion of reality on the part of Nissan, claiming he was set up after the company caught wind of him trying to oust its CEO and further consolidate the alliance.

According to Bloomberg, neither Nissan and Mitsubishi decided to comment on the reported new structure that will be discussed on Tuesday. The companies have scheduled a joint press conference at Nissan’s headquarters in Yokohama immediately afterward. The plan, as indicated by inside sources, is targeted at creating a more balanced decision-making structure between the three firms. Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard, Nissan Chief Executive Officer Hiroto Saikawa and Mitsubishi Motors CEO Osamu Masuko, are all under consideration to chair the new committee — with Senard being the most likely candidate.

From Bloomberg:

Junichiro Hironaka, Ghosn’s lead attorney, said the car titan agreed to “severe” bail conditions — including staying in Japan, paying 1 billion yen in bail ($9 million), having cameras installed at the entrance and exit of his home, restrictions to using his mobile phone and having no access to the internet. Ghosn, as well as Greg Kelly, another Nissan executive arrested in the case, aren’t allowed to contact those involved with the investigations at Nissan, Renault and other entities.

Although 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 question is whether a planned merger between Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi will happen. Although 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.

Most are under the assumption that the alliance will forego the possibility of a full merger without Ghosn. Nissan and its shareholders have been categorically opposed to the idea. However, even if the court had allowed him to participate in the meeting, it’s doubtful anything would have changed.

“I don’t see how turning up at Nissan’s board meeting is going to change anything,” Janet Lewis, an analyst for Macquarie Capital Securities Ltd. in Tokyo, explained. “The alliance is working on how to improve its governance and how the new Renault leadership team can best work with Nissan and Mitsubishi. The Ghosn court case is a sideshow that should not impact the future direction of the alliance.”

[Image: Memory Stockphoto/Shutterstock]

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