Renault begins new era after Carlos Ghosn quits

Carlos Ghosn has been replaced as chairman and CEO of Renault, severing the final link between the jailed executive and the industry alliance he created.

Ghosn resigned on Wednesday night, according to the French government, which owns 15% of Renault. He had been CEO of the French carmaker since 2005.

The legendary auto executive has spent the last two months in jail since his arrest in Tokyo on November 19. He has been charged by Japanese prosecutors with financial misconduct while head of automaker Nissan. Ghosn, 64, denies the charges, but prosecutors have argued successfully that he should be kept in jail awaiting trial.

His downfall has raised questions about the future of the unusual global alliance he built between Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi Motors. The grouping employs about 450,000 people and produces one in every nine cars sold worldwide.

A French citizen who was born in Brazil and raised in Lebanon, Ghosn rescued both Renault and Nissan before stitching them together via a series of equity stakes that later expanded to include Mitsubishi Motors.

Nissan and Mitsubishi both fired him as chairman soon after his arrest. Renault’s board resisted calls to follow suit, saying it didn’t have enough information. But the French government abandoned its support for Ghosn last week, making his departure just a matter of time.

Renault’s board met on Thursday to appoint new leadership for the French automaker.

In a statement after the meeting, Renault said Thierry Bolloré had been appointed CEO. He was Renault’s chief operating officer and was made acting CEO after Ghosn’s arrest.

Jean-Dominique Senard, who is stepping down as CEO of tire-maker Michelin later this year, was appointed Renault chairman.

Installing a new leadership team could allay some fears about the future of Renault without Ghosn at the helm. His legal team in Japan has said he may have to wait as long as six months to a year for his trial to start.

The alliance between Renault and Nissan was founded in 1999 at a time when the Japanese company was in danger of collapse.

Ghosn was credited with turning Nissan’s business around. He brought Mitsubishi into the fold as it struggled with a crisis in 2016.

But it was Nissan that triggered his downfall, launching an investigation after a whistleblower flagged concerns. The company said it found evidence of serious financial misconduct and began cooperating with Japanese prosecutors.

In a court appearance earlier this month, Ghosn said he had been wrongly accused of unsubstantiated allegations.

Both Nissan and Renault have pledged to overhaul their corporate governance following the scandal.