It’s one of those events that everyone remembers. In the business world in any case, no one has forgotten November 19, 2018, the day when Carlos Ghosn, the CEO of Renault and Nissan, was arrested when getting off his plane in Japan. That day, Ghosn lost everything: his positions, his reputation, his freedom. And the shock plunged the two car manufacturers he led into a long and deep crisis. The Franco-Japanese alliance between Renault and Nissan did not survive.
The Carlos Ghosn affair, among the always spectacular stories illustrating the short distance between the Capitol and the Tarpeian rock, was particular in that it was the Nissan company which wanted the fall of its boss for a long time November 19, 2018. C It was within the group that the elements of which the Japanese justice system was seized were gathered for months and in secret: remuneration and promises of a “package” upon retirement, residences paid for at the company's expense, and suspicions of kickbacks paid by a distributor in the Middle East.
Five years later, Carlos Ghosn has never been tried for these accusations. Only his former right-hand man arrested at the same time as him, the American Greg Kelly, was convicted. He has since returned to the United States. Ghosn, on the other hand, after four months behind bars and eight months on probation in Japan, left on December 30, 2019. An incredible escape, organized by plane by American mercenaries who were then extradited to the Land of the Sun rising and served a prison sentence there. Carlos Ghosn thus landed in Lebanon, the country of his childhood. He has never left since and seems condemned to remain there for life. Because in addition to Japan, France also issued an international arrest warrant against him last year. The hyper-CEO who was known for having three passports (French, Lebanese, Brazilian) no longer uses them. From Beirut, he manages his sprawling legal file, with proceedings opened in Japan, France, the Netherlands, and even the Virgin Islands. In Lebanon, Carlos Ghosn has initiated proceedings against Nissan from whom he is demanding up to $1 billion in compensation. In return, the Japanese manufacturer has just won, at first instance, a symbolic victory against its former boss since a Lebanese court recently recognized that Nissan was entitled to recover the house in the Achrafieh district where Carlos Ghosn still lives.
Also read “Big Business” n°123: Ultimately, Carlos Ghosn was worthless
The arrest of Carlos Ghosn five years ago caused a shock wave that violently hit Renault and Nissan. Nissan's determination to use major means to get rid of its boss demonstrated the manufacturer's fear of being forced into a merger with the French group, its 43% shareholder. The project, pushed at the time by the French authorities, was buried.
Within the Japanese manufacturer, the past four years have been one of repeated governance crises. At Renault, the new leaders Jean-Dominique Senard and Luca de Meo have gradually mourned an Alliance that had become dysfunctional and toxic. After four years of heated negotiations, the two manufacturers, as well as Mitsubishi, have completely rewritten their relations. Renault's dominant position has disappeared in favor of a cross-shareholding between Losange and the Japanese group to the tune of 15% of the capital. Common structures, particularly in purchasing, have been dismantled. Cooperation is supposed to be created around concrete projects. Nissan will therefore invest up to 600 million euros in Ampere, the new company dedicated to electric vehicles created by Renault. The French manufacturer plans to quickly start selling its Nissan shares to go down to the planned level of 15%. The two groups who were promised marriage now only maintain distant cousins. They only share the challenge of each recovering their performances and their valuations on the stock market, massacred during these years of crisis.