Ex-Renault Head Carlos Ghosn Offers to Repay Versailles for Marie Antoinette-Inspired Party
Just in case the Carlos Ghosn story couldn’t get any stranger, now we’ve got a French palace party in the mix.
Apparently, when you're at the center of a major international scandal involving under-reported income, every little party you happen to host at a French palace goes under the microscope. Killjoys! But such is the strange life of ex-Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn at the moment.
Ghosn remains jailed in the Tokyo Detention House over charges that he understated his pay as chairman and CEO of Nissan to Japanese authorities. However, yesterday, it was Renault that called for French prosecutors to investigate a lavish party Ghosn hosted at the Château de Versailles to celebrate his second marriage and wife's birthday, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Renault has a sponsorship deal with the Château de Versailles that allowed it to host certain events at the palace, which is both a former French royal residence as well as a UNESCO World Heritage site, free of charge. The deal itself was worth €2.3 million ($2.6 million U.S.) according to the Financial Times. The funds were earmarked for the restoration of the Salon de la Paix reception room.
However, Renault found a document valuing Ghosn's rental of Versailles' Grand Trianon on Oct. 8, 2016—the same day as his party there—at €50,000 ($57,000 U.S.), per a source close to the matter who spoke with the Wall Street Journal. That source also said there was a receipt from a third-party organizer that noted the rental as "a gift from Versailles." Renault alleges that Ghosn misused Renault's corporate sponsorship to host a personal party, thus benefiting personally at the expense of Renault's future ability to host events there.
This party itself was a doozy, using the former royal residence for "a black-tie party where actors in 18th-century costumes roamed under the chandeliers of a Versailles château," according to the Wall Street Journal. Even better, Town & Country noted that the event was inspired by Sofia Coppola's film, Marie Antoinette. Approximately 120 guests partook in the Ghosn's pastry-tower-filled event, where the Ghosns literally let them eat cake.
In response, Ghosn reportedly offered to reimburse the Château de Versailles for the full cost of hosting his marriage/birthday combo shindig. The money would ultimately be credited to Renault's allotted usage.
Ghosn's French lawyer Jean-Yves Le Borgne released a statement to the Financial Times saying that Ghosn didn't realize that his use of the space was treated as part of Renault's sponsorship deal:
Carlos Ghosn paid for all of his wedding expenses. The event space at Versailles was made available to him without charge, and Mr Ghosn was unaware that the use of the space would be charged against Renault's allotted usage.
This is the first odd dealing to come out of Renault's investigation into Ghosn, who resigned from his roles as chairman and CEO over Renault in January. Sources close to a similar investigation underway on the Nissan side of the automaker alliance also claim that it has focused on Ghosn's use of company-owned properties, per the Financial Times.
However, documents seen by the Financial Times suggest that tensions are growing between Renault and Nissan over how to handle their investigations of Ghosn's dealings. While they all may be free of Ghosn's leadership now, the companies' partnership may be suffering as they scramble to figure out what's next.