ArrowArtboardCreated with Sketch.Title ChevronTitle ChevronEye IconIcon FacebookIcon LinkedinIcon Mail ContactPath LayerIcon MailMenu BurgerPositive ArrowIcon PrintIcon SearchSite TitleTitle ChevronIcon Twitter
Nissan's Ghosn crisis

With Ghosn out of jail, Nissan braces for ex-chairman's offensive

Former chief expected to claim executives signed off on expenditures

TOKYO -- Carlos Ghosn's release from a Tokyo detention center on bail this week marks the end of one ordeal for the former Nissan Motor chairman and, possibly, the start of another for the company he once ran.

Nissan previously could make claims regarding the allegations against Ghosn while facing little challenge. Locked away in a Tokyo jail, Ghosn's access to media has been limited.

Now released, the Brazilian-born tycoon appears ready to counter the claims. Analysts and people close to the Japanese automaker say Ghosn may go after Nissan's current management as part of his campaign to defend himself against the financial misconduct charges and tell his side of the story.

"Although Ghosn is already 'wiped out' in business, he will likely shake Nissan's management as he will set up occasions to firmly pronounce his ideas and rights," said Takaki Nakanishi, chief executive of the automotive-focused Nakanishi Research Institute.

Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa said on Tuesday that Ghosn's release had no impact on the automaker. But sources close to the company acknowledge that the next few months leading up to Ghosn's trial in the autumn pose risks for Saikawa and his team.

Ghosn will be free to speak out whenever he wishes, one person with knowledge of the situation said. The former chairman might claim he followed company procedure, informing relevant Nissan executives of the transactions under question, the person added.

In an interview from jail in January, Ghosn claimed "the executive in charge of the region signed [the approval]" for the payments to a Saudi businessman that are now the focus of breach-of-trust charges.

Nissan may have miscalculated, not expecting him to be released so early in the process, according to a former prosecutor who now is an attorney. Ghosn was released on bail Wednesday on his third attempt after more than 100 days in detention -- an unusual outcome in Japan, where only about 30% of criminal defendants are granted bail before the first trial.

Though the carmaker hopes to focus on stabilizing its business and its relationship with alliance partner Renault -- Nissan's biggest shareholder, with a 43.4% stake -- Ghosn's offensive may distract from that task, the former attorney said.

Ghosn could even take his fight to the boardroom. His defense lawyer, Junichiro Hironaka, said Ghosn is allowed to attend board meetings of Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi Motors with the court's permission.

But for Ghosn, who is "under such strict bail conditions where he cannot use the internet, it is unrealistic for him to perform his duty as a director," said one analyst at an international consultancy.

In the meantime, Nissan will continue eradicating Ghosn's influence. He was ousted as chairman in November and is expected to be removed from the board of directors at an extraordinary shareholders meeting next month. Renault also replaced him as chairman and CEO in January.

"The pages are turned," Renault CEO Thierry Bollore said on Tuesday, claiming the worst of the Nissan crisis was over. 

Sponsored Content

About Sponsored Content This content was commissioned by Nikkei's Global Business Bureau.

You have {{numberArticlesLeft}} free article{{numberArticlesLeft-plural}} left this monthThis is your last free article this month

Stay ahead with our exclusives on Asia;
the most dynamic market in the world.

Stay ahead with our exclusives on Asia

Get trusted insights from experts within Asia itself.

Get trusted insights from experts
within Asia itself.

Get Unlimited access

You have {{numberArticlesLeft}} free article{{numberArticlesLeft-plural}} left this month

This is your last free article this month

Stay ahead with our exclusives on Asia; the most
dynamic market in the world
.

Get trusted insights from experts
within Asia itself.

Try 3 months for $9

Offer ends April 19th

Your trial period has expired

You need a subscription to...

  • Read all stories with unlimited access
  • Use our mobile and tablet apps
See all offers and subscribe

Your full access to the Nikkei Asian Review has expired

You need a subscription to:

  • Read all stories with unlimited access
  • Use our mobile and tablet apps
See all offers
NAR on print phone, device, and tablet media