Nissan Motor Co.’s shareholders approved Monday by majority vote removing former Chairman Carlos Ghosn and his closest aide Greg Kelly, who was its representative director, from the company’s board.
It is the end, in both name and reality, of the almost 20-year “Ghosn regime,” which had lasted since the former chairman produced a V-shaped recovery of crisis-ridden Nissan in the late 1990s. The approval means that Ghosn will be removed from all the posts he held at the Japanese automaker.
At an extraordinary general shareholders’ meeting at a Tokyo hotel on Monday, leading French automaker Renault’s Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard, 66, was approved by majority vote to be appointed as a Nissan director. Renault is Nissan’s largest stockholder, owning 43.4 percent of Nissan shares.
At the beginning of the meeting, Nissan President and Chief Executive Officer Hiroto Saikawa said: “Today’s meeting is a big event for our company to set matters right. It’s a big milestone meeting and a step forward.”
Saikawa, 65, then said that Ghosn “spent our company’s budget for personal use” and “violated corporate ethics in such a way that he deserves to be dismissed.”
As for his own management responsibility, Saikawa said he has “a responsibility for what happened in the past,” but showed his intention to stay in his post: “Another of my responsibilities is to conduct governance reform and pave the way steadily for the next generation to take over this company. It’s not easy to fix the distortion [under the Ghosn regime] built over 20 years.”
In response, some shareholders made severe remarks demanding all the current management members take responsibility and resign.
Saikawa said the company would lodge a claim against Ghosn for causing damage to Nissan by spending corporate funds for his private purposes. He also said Nissan does “not intend to appoint a new chairman” after Ghosn.
At its ordinary shareholders’ meeting in June, Nissan will decide on transforming itself into a firm with a governance structure of nominating and other statutory committees that clearly separate business execution and oversight of management. The automaker will pick executives taking into account the lessons learned from the past, when all power was concentrated in Ghosn, causing a failure of corporate functions. Under the new corporate structure, the chairperson of the board will be chosen from among independent external directors, taking the initiative to supervise management. The meeting was made public via YouTube.
Ghosn was already dismissed as chairman of Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. in November last year, and he resigned as Renault’s chairman in January.
Meanwhile, Ghosn’s lawyer Junichiro Hironaka and his team are scheduled to hold a press conference on Tuesday in Tokyo. Video footage of Ghosn making an assertion before his fourth arrest will be presented at the conference.