Renault may follow Nissan with new CEO to get past Ghosn era

Ania Nussbaum

Renault SA may take a cue from partner Nissan Motor Co. in changing chief executives as the carmakers seek to move on from the Carlos Ghosn era.

The future of Thierry Bollore at the helm of Renault looks increasingly precarious as the manufacturers prepare to reshape their two-decade partnership nearly a year after Ghosn’s arrest, people familiar with the situation said. Bollore, formerly second-in-command at Renault under Ghosn, replaced him as CEO in January.

The future of Thierry Bollore at the helm of Renault looks increasingly precarious as Renault and Nissan prepare to reshape their two-decade partnership nearly a year after Carlos Ghosn’s arrest.

Bollore has long been viewed with suspicion by the French government, which holds a 15% stake in Renault, as a holdover from the Ghosn years, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing confidential matters. Company insiders have also described tense relations between Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard and Bollore, who met with criticism after the company lowered its financial targets for the year in July.

The main obstacle to replacing Bollore is the lack of an obvious successor, the people said. Even so, Senard will ask the carmaker’s board to start a search for a replacement, Le Figaro reported late Tuesday, citing unidentified sources. The question of CEO succession may come under review at an Oct. 18 board meeting, the newspaper said. Representatives for Renault declined to comment.

Fragile Alliance

The move would come after Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa resigned in September following a scandal over pay. On Tuesday, the carmaker tapped Makoto Uchida, 53, the head of its China joint venture, as CEO, to work alongside new Chief Operating Officer Ashwani Gupta. Renault had sought Saikawa’s removal for his role in the alleged wrongdoing by Ghosn, and signaled support for Uchida and Gupta early on.

Ghosn, who headed Renault and Nissan for years, held their two-decade partnership together until his arrest last November on allegations of financial misconduct, which he has denied. His downfall exposed poor corporate governance at Nissan and brought long-standing tensions between the automakers to the fore.

Renewed leadership atop both companies may help rekindle talks to repair the partnership. Nissan has long demanded a balancing in its shareholding relationship with Renault, which holds 43% of the Japanese firm compared with Nissan’s 15% non-voting stake in the French carmaker.

State Role

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said the government won’t meddle in Renault’s governance. Speaking in Luxembourg on Wednesday, Le Maire said he has full confidence in Senard “to choose with the board the best governance to carry out the industrial strategy that we have defined.”

The 56-year-old Bollore, who is scheduled to address employees in a Q&A session Thursday, didn’t return requests for comment. He has been criticized by Nissan insiders for at first delaying investigations into the company’s allegations against Ghosn and adopting a cautious approach over Nissan’s findings. Shortly after Ghosn’s arrest in Japan, Bollore pledged “full support” for the leader in a letter to employees.

Senard, appointed chairman in 2019, has had a rocky tenure at Renault. He pushed for a merger with Nissan that the company rebuffed and came close to resigning after he failed to convince the Japanese carmaker to support a tie-up between Renault and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV.

With assistance from Caroline Connan.