French government ‘seeks to hire new Renault chief’

French government ‘seeks to hire new Renault chief’

The French government is seeking candidates to replace Renault’s embattled boss Carlos Ghosn, as some board members began to voice doubts about keeping him in office after his indictment in Japan for suspected misconduct, several sources told Reuters.

In a statement yesterday, interim chairman Philippe Lagayette said Renault’s board did not consider replacing Ghosn at a meeting the previous day and denied reports of boardroom divisions. At Thursday’s meeting, Renault directors were briefed on an investigation by alliance partner Nissan that led to Ghosn’s arrest last month. He was charged this week over the company’s failure to declare €37.8m in deferred income he had arranged to receive.

Nissan fired Ghosn as chairman three days after his detention, but Renault has resisted pressure to dismiss him, as the scandal strains their carmaking alliance. The Renault board stuck by its earlier decision to keep him on, with its lead director standing in as interim chairman and deputy CEO Thierry Bollore heading operations.

In an initial statement issued by Renault after the meeting, the board “noted that, at this stage, it does not have information concerning Carlos Ghosn’s defence”.

However, in the five-hour session, several directors led by Cherie Blair, wife of the British former prime minister Tony Blair, began to express impatience with the situation, two sources said.

What she said, in effect, was that we can’t remain in this situation forever. At some point you need to move forward and move on,” one source said of Blair.

Lagayette “refutes the press rumours reporting differences of opinion” among board members at the meeting, Renault said in its statement yesterday. In a separate statement to Reuters, Blair said she was “saddened that the confidentially of board meetings has been breached in particular in respect of your entirely inaccurate description of my contribution”.

She said: “I can confirm that I, along with other members of the board, asked a number of questions of Renault’s lawyers concerning their knowledge of the Japanese legal system, their estimation as to how long Ghosn will be held in custody, and their best estimation of when Ghosn would be available to resume his duties.”

“There’s nothing official yet but the government is working on a line-up. They’re ready to turn the page,” the source said.

The French government, Renault’s biggest shareholder with a 15% stake and two board seats, typically plays a major role in succession planning.

- Reuters

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