Carlos Ghosn, who created an alliance between Nissan and Renault that made it effectively the world’s largest carmaker, was arrested by the authorities in Japan on Monday in a remarkable tumble for one of the industry’s most powerful and admired leaders.
Mr. Ghosn, a larger-than-life figure widely hailed for saving Nissan, reviving Renault, and rethinking how automakers could share technologies, was detained after an internal company inquiry found that he had underreported his compensation to the Japanese government for several years.
The alliance, which in 2016 was broadened to include Mitsubishi, accounts for 10.6 million cars sold annually. The arrest of Mr. Ghosn, who is chairman of Nissan, chief executive of Renault and chairman of the board at Mitsubishi, stunned the industry. It comes at an uneasy time: The companies face a slowing economy, a global trade war and a shift toward electric cars.
If the alliance were one entity, it could be considered the world’s largest automaker, on track to sell more cars than Toyota or Volkswagen this year — if it can match results in the first six months of this year, when it sold 5.5 million vehicles.
Hiroto Saikawa, Nissan’s chief executive, said he would recommend to his board, which will meet Thursday, that Mr. Ghosn be removed. “Needless to say, this is an act which cannot be tolerated by the company,” he said.
Mr. Saikawa, speaking at a 90-minute news conference at Nissan headquarters in Yokohama, described Mr. Ghosn and Greg Kelly, a director who was also arrested Monday, as “masterminds” of a long-running scheme to mislead financial authorities. He offered few details, citing the prosecutors’ continuing investigation.
“I feel a big disappointment,” said Mr. Saikawa, who did not bow in deep apology before television cameras, as is customary in Japan. “And I feel frustration and despair, and indignation or resentment.”
Mr. Kelly was Nissan’s first American director, appointed in 2012, but had a much lower profile than Mr. Ghosn. Neither of the men could be reached for comment.
Renault, which owns 43 percent of Nissan, said on Monday that its board of directors would meet “as soon as possible” to discuss the matter but offered no other details. Mitsubishi released a statement that it, too, would look to remove Mr. Ghosn.
Nissan said it was cooperating with Japanese prosecutors and that its investigation into Mr. Ghosn began after a whistle-blower said he had been misrepresenting his salary and using company assets for personal purposes.
Born in Brazil to Lebanese parents and educated at elite universities in France, Mr. Ghosn made his reputation after joining Nissan in 1999. Renault, where Mr. Ghosn was an executive vice president, had bought a large stake in the Japanese company, which was on the verge of collapse at the time.
Mr. Ghosn made sweeping changes at Nissan, closing five domestic factories and cutting 21,000 jobs. Later, he engineered an arrangement between Renault and Nissan that allowed them to operate like a single carmaker. Short of a full merger, the alliance enabled them to share the cost of developing new models and to negotiate better deals with suppliers by buying components together.
As chairman and chief executive of the partnership, Mr. Ghosn was celebrated in Japan: His life story was made into a manga comic, although critics on the left noted he had earned his French nickname, “Le cost killer.” Still, he had enough political savvy to retain the support of the French government, which owns 15 percent of Renault, despite some bitter pay disputes.
In 2016 and 2017, Mr. Ghosn’s salary at Renault was questioned publicly, by French government officials and a shareholder group; this year he agreed to a 30 percent pay cut in return for another four-year term as chief executive.
Under Mr. Ghosn, the alliance overcame the kinds of differences in corporate and national cultures that have often doomed megamergers like the ill-fated marriage between Daimler and Chrysler, which was dissolved in 2007.
Mr. Ghosn, the epitome of the globe-trotting, multitasking manager, was chief executive of both Nissan and Renault from 2005 to 2017, flying between Paris and Tokyo every few weeks. He was also something of a media star, holding forth on panels at the World Economic Forum in Davos and celebrating his 2016 marriage at Versailles with actors dressed in 18th-century costume.
He earned a reputation as a hard-nosed manager who drew up rigorous business plans and kept close track of their progress.
“His world is the world of efficiency,” said Ferdinand Dudenhöffer, a professor at the University of Duisburg-Essen who follows the auto industry. “It’s the American style of management: clear plans, clear goals and permanently monitored.”
Mr. Dudenhöffer said it was questionable whether Nissan or Renault would have survived in the brutally competitive market for mid-price autos without Mr. Ghosn. In a measure of investors’ regard for him, Renault shares slid 10 percent on the Paris stock exchange Monday; Nissan shares fell 9 percent in trading in Düsseldorf, Germany. Nissan was down more than 5 percent in early trading in Tokyo.
According to Nissan’s securities filings, Mr. Ghosn was paid 735 million yen, about $6.5 million, in cash in 2017. That is a drop of 33 percent from the ¥1.1 billion he received in 2016.
He stepped down from the top job at Nissan last year but remained at the top of the alliance. Just last month he told reporters that he planned to stay in that post until 2020. Mr. Ghosn was paid ¥227 million in cash and stock options by Mitsubishi Motors last year.
In insular Japan, where foreign leadership of domestic companies is rare, Mr. Ghosn’s downfall could be taken as a referendum on the perils of working with outsiders.
“He’s always the go-to when people say foreigners can never succeed in Japan,” said Pernille Rudlin, managing director of Rudlin Consulting, which specializes in intercultural consulting with Japanese companies. “Now there are no good examples left.”
Nissan has had stumbles recently. In October 2017, the company suspended production at all of its Japanese factories after discovering that uncertified technicians had conducted vehicle inspections. In July, the company admitted to falsifying emissions and fuel economy tests.
The misconduct allegations about Mr. Ghosn are of another order, analysts said.
“For Nissan, Mr. Ghosn is a big hero,” said Shin Ushijima, a lawyer who specializes in corporate governance. “This news is so embarrassing.”
At a news conference with the Belgian prime minister on Monday, President Emmanuel Macron of France said it was too early to comment. But the French state, as a major Renault shareholder, would be “extremely vigilant about the stability of the alliance” between Renault and Nissan, he said.
Mr. Macron added that the French government would seek to maintain stability and “full support” for Renault’s workers. The company employs more than 47,000 workers in France.
Mr. Ghosn’s pay was long debated there. In 2016, Renault was pressured by Mr. Macron, the finance minister at the time, to reduce his compensation. In 2017, he insisted on a package of 7.4 million euros, about $8.5 million. The French government balked but Renault shareholders ultimately approved that payout.
In Japan, Mr. Ghosn’s compensation made him an outlier. Japanese executives typically earn far less than their American or European counterparts. Takeshi Uchiyamada, chairman of Toyota, for example, was paid ¥181 million in 2017, compared to Mr. Ghosn’s reported ¥735 million.
Foreign investors tend to criticize Japanese companies as not paying executives enough. “For the Japanese market, the main concern from foreign institutional investors is the question of whether compensation will be less incentive driven,” said Hideaki Miyajima, professor of commerce at Waseda University in Tokyo. “The criticism of Japanese firms is that compensation is not related to performance, and Japanese leaders are less likely to take risks.”
Web & Domain Protection Software Market SWOT Analysis by Key Players: Leaseweb, Namecheap, SiteLock, Verisign, Sucuri
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Chapter 11 Business / Industry Chain (Value & Supply Chain Analysis)
Chapter 12 Conclusions & Appendix
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BY SYLVIA SANCHEZ
Bombastic barrister Michael Avenatti facing new indictment for Nike ‘shakedown’
Prosecutors slapped trash-talking attorney Michael Avenatti with a new charge Wednesday for his alleged shakedown of Nike while also reducing the legal risk for celeb lawyer Mark Geragos, who is implicated in the case.
The new indictment filed in Manhattan Federal Court eliminated conspiracy charges against Avenatti, who is accused of attempting to extort the shoe giant for more than $20 million or he’d go public with claims the company secretly paid college basketball prospects.
Avenatti and Geragos were representing Gary Franklin Sr., a prominent figure in the youth basketball world, when prosecutors say Avenatti crossed the line from legal advocate to criminal.
A conspiracy charge requires an agreement with a second person, raising the possibility that Geragos was the other person involved in the alleged extortion plot. But in the new indictment, prosecutors replaced two conspiracy charges with an honest services fraud charge against Avenatti. The evidence in the case remains the same.
“I’ll go take $10 billion off your client’s market cap… I’m not f—–g around,” Avenatti told Nike lawyers on March 20, according to a criminal complaint.
Avenatti, 48, demanded Nike hire him and Geragos to conduct an internal investigation paying up to $25 million, the complaint reads.
Avenatti has pleaded not guilty and said he’s the victim of “vindictive prosecution” due to his criticism of President Trump. As part of his defense, Avenatti seeks to introduce evidence of Nike payments to college basketball players.
Geragos, a Los Angeles-based attorney who has represented celebrities including Winona Ryder, Kesha, Colin Kaepernick and Michael Jackson, did not respond to an email. He has not been charged.
“I am extremely pleased that the two counts alleging I engaged in a conspiracy against Nike have just been dismissed by Trump’s DOJ. I expect to be fully exonerated when it is all said and done,” Avenatti tweeted.
A trial is set for January.
Avenatti is separately charged in Manhattan with stealing $300,000 from a book deal made by his former client, porn star Stormy Daniels, who claims to have had an affair with Trump. Avenatti became famous in large part through his aggressive representation of Daniels.
By STEPHEN REX BROWN
Elon Musk picks Berlin for Tesla’s Europe Gigafactory
Elon Musk said Tuesday during an awards ceremony in Germany that Tesla’s European gigafactory will be built in the Berlin area.
Musk was on stage to receive a Golden Steering Wheel Award given by BILD.
“There’s not enough time tonight to tell all the details,” Musk said during an on stage interview with Volkswagen Group CEO Herbert Diess. “But it’s in the Berlin area, and it’s near the new airport.”
Tesla is also going to create an engineering and design center in Berlin because “I think Berlin has some of the best art in the world,” Musk said.
Musk took to Twitter after the ceremony and provided a bit more detail, including that this factory will build batteries, powertrains and vehicles, beginning with the Model Y.
Will build batteries, powertrains & vehicles, starting with Model Y
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 12, 2019
Diess thanked Musk while on stage for “pushing us” towards electrification. Diess later said that Musk and Telsa is demonstrating that moving towards electrification works.
“I don’t think Germany is that far behind,” Musk said when asked about why German automakers were behind in electric vehicles. He later added that some of the best cars in the world are made in Germany.
“Everyone knows that German engineering is outstanding and that’s part of the reason we’re locating our gigafactory Europe in Germany,” Musk said.
By Kirsten Korosec
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