Carlos Ghosn, the former CEO of Renault and Nissan, and current fugitive has tried to justify his US$1 billion ($1.5 billion) lawsuit against his former employer, as well as offering up his thoughts on the machinations in Nissan’s boardroom and the renewed alliance with Renault.
Speaking online last week at a press conference hosted by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, Ghosn told Automotive News and others in attendance that his US$1 billion lawsuit against Nissan and some of its executives is just about “trying to have part of my rights back”.
“What I’m looking for is no revenge,” Ghosn told journalists, before stating “I just want to make sure that all the criminals and plotters cannot sleep quietly in their beds”.
Ghosn filed a lawsuit in Lebanon against Nissan in June seeking US$588 million ($865 million) in lost earnings and costs, and US$500 million ($735 million) in punitive damages.
In the lawsuit Ghosn alleges “the serious and sensitive accusations” made against the former CEO “will linger in people’s minds for years”. As a result Ghosn “will suffer from them for the remainder of his life, as they have persistent and lingering impacts, even if based on mere suspicion”.
A first ruling in the matter is expected in September. Ghosn, a Lebanese citizen by birth, currently resides in Beirut after dramatically escaping from home detention in Japan in 2019. Lebanon doesn’t have an extradition treaty with Japan.
Asked if he had any regrets about skipping bail and escaping in a musical instrument case smuggled onboard a private jet, Ghosn said that he could never get a fair trial in Japan and that leaving the country was the only option available to him.
“I’m not an idiot. I’m not a turkey,” Ghosn continued. “Did I lose moral ground? Maybe. This was the best solution for me, and I don’t regret it.”
As he is often want to do, Ghosn offered up his thoughts on the current state of his former employers.
“This soap opera of the defenestration of Gupta has been, frankly, laughable,” Ghosn said regarding the recent ousting of Nissan’s chief operating officer (COO) Ashwani Gupta.
“I understood that there was a new corporate governance, with new rules, with a lot of transparency. All of this was, frankly, a story for idiots. The cloak and dagger continues.”
Gupta became Nissan’s COO in October 2019 alongside newly appointed CEO Makoto Uchida, and was unusually prominent in his role of COO, taking a leading role in product and company announcements.
As part of an executive reshuffle, he was not re-elected to Nissan’s board at its annual conference, held at the end of June.
Sources told Reuters in June Gupta was possibly let go because of an investigation into claims he harassed a female employee earlier this year.
During this investigation, it seems as though surveillance cameras were installed at Gupta’s home in Tokyo, and it’s possible CEO Uchida approved this move.
Reports indicate there was tensions between the two men regarding the nature of the alliance between Renault and Nissan.
At the time of Ghosn’s arrest in 2018, it’s said that many Nissan executives were expecting Ghosn to announce plans to formally merge Renault and Nissan.
“After my arrest, the alliance was shattered,” Ghosn said in last week’s press conference.
He posited “the only thing you can do is to restart something less ambitious, much more restricted”, and he stated “this latest agreement is trying to go for a mini alliance with a very reduced scope of cooperation”.
At the beginning of 2023, Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi announced a rebalancing of their alliance, which includes Renault voluntarily limiting its control over Nissan, despite owning a controlling 44 per cent stake, and Nissan finally gaining voting rights in the French automaker. In time, Renault plans to reduce its stake in Nissan to 15 per cent.
The Alliance also outlined a slew of joint venture projects, but stopped short of planning out new joint platforms, which have hitherto underpinned much of the co-operation between the French and Japanese automakers.
Complicating matters, Renault is busy splitting itself in EV and ICE divisions. The former will be partially floated, while the latter will rely on a new powertrain division that is a joint venture with rival Geely.