Renault Board Ousts CEO Thierry Bolloré as Ghosn Fallout Continues

Nissan axes Saikawa-san, and now Renault showed Bolloré the door.

A specter hangs over Nissan and Renault and its name is Carlos Ghosn. Ever since the Alliance’s former Don found himself in the crosshairs of a financial investigation, he’s gone from a jail cell to house arrest and back to jail. Now, just a week after Nissan ousted Hiroto Saikawa—the company’s CEO since Ghosn’s arrest—Renault has removed CEO Thierry Bolloré. 

In a fiery referendum on Bolloré, Renault’s leadership voted with near-unanimous approval—three of the eighteen board members abstained—to dismiss the 56-year-old executive. While Renault’s chairman Jean-Dominique Senard expressed to The Wall-Street Journal that, “I had hoped this would be done differently,” the move against Bolloré’s leadership wasn’t unexpected given the close relationship he had as Ghosn deputy and Saikawa’s resignation earlier this week. 

Like Bolloré, Saikawa was stained by he and Ghosn’s close working relationship, as well as his apparent financial misdeeds. After a heated stakeholder’s meeting earlier this year saw Saikawa apologize for Ghosn’s transgressions, saying, “I deeply, deeply apologize for all the worries and troubles we have caused. This is unprecedented and unbelievable misconduct by a top executive,” it had begun bubbling to the surface that Nissan’s had found similar causes of concern in Saikawa’s own bankings. 

In recent weeks, a board-sanctioned execution looked imminent with all the fireworks of Bolloré’s exile. However, Nissan’s board and Saikawa came to an arrangement for a far-less explosive resignation. 

Both men’s ouster comes as Nissan and Renault each look to scrub its respective executive class who’d been tainted by Ghosn’s presence, as well as find scape-goats for each brand’s plummeting sales. Meanwhile, after his initial arrest, release, re-arrest, release, and re-re-arrest, Ghosn remains in jail. While incarcerated, Ghosn’s wife Carole has taken it upon herself to be her husband’s voice as the Japanese government hasn’t allowed Ghosn to defend himself.

Carole alleges that Nissan and the Japanese government conducted a criminal conspiracy against her husband and that his treatment is unjust. “A few people within Nissan decided to get rid of my husband,” and “that was the easiest way not to do the [Renault-Nissan] merger,” said Carole speaking to CNBC’s “Closing Bell.”

Mrs. Ghosn also penned an Op-Ed in The Washington Post imploring U.S. President Donald Trump to aid in her husband’s plight. The editorial was published ahead of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the United States earlier this year, and stated, “Trade will be front and center. It’s hard to imagine that Trump would be indifferent to a Japanese government ministry interfering in the normal give-and-take of private business decisions by one of its automakers. I hope and pray that our president will urge Abe to allow my husband to obtain bail so he can prepare for trial.”

After the vote to remove Bolloré, Mr. Senard stated that, “The Alliance needs a breath of fresh air. [This] was nothing personal.” Nissan’s director Yasushi Kimura shared a slightly more professional view on Saikawa’s departure, saying, “We believed immediate action was appropriate.” 

As for the Alliance, that’s still up in the air. Even before Ghosn’s arrest, the partnership had been suffering from internal fatigue. And with sales across each company plunging in recent years, the two titanic companies are looking for a way out of the hole. These executive shakeups could be the answer to that issue with new blood rising to the top.