French automaker Renault on Tuesday refused to remove chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn who has been arrested and detained in Japan on charges of tax evasion for underreporting his income by about 50%. The company’s board decided to appoint COO Thierry Bolloré to take over Ghosn CEO duties while he is “temporarily incapacitated.” Lead independent director, Philippe Lagayette, will act as chairman of the board during Ghosn’s, uh, incapacity.
Ghosn has already been removed from his positions as chairman of Nissan and of Mitsubishi. The two Japan-based firms have formed a tripartite alliance with Renault in which the French company owns more than 43% of Nissan and Nissan owns 15% of Renault. Nissan also owns a controlling stake of 34% in Mitsubishi. The largest stakeholder in Renault is the French government.
In its statement, Renault’s board commented:
The Board decided to request Nissan, on the basis of the principles of transparence, trust and mutual respect set forth in the Alliance Charter, to provide all information in their possession arising from the internal investigations related to Mr. Ghosn.
The Board endorsed the support expressed by the Nissan management to the Renault Nissan Mitsubishi Alliance, which remains the priority of the Group.
Renault’s board is more interested in the survival of the alliance than it is in getting rid of an alleged tax cheat. The Guardian reported on comments from Mitsubishi CEO Osamu Masuko who said that he thought the three alliance members would appoint separate new chairs: “I don’t think there is anyone else on earth like Ghosn who could run Renault, Nissan, and Mitsubishi.”
Renault employs about 47,000 workers in France, and French President Emmanuel Macron will be watching Ghosn’s fate carefully with an eye toward the future of the company. Macron’s popularity in France has plunged and any fallout from the charges against Ghosn that land on France will not enhance his popularity.