Ex-Nissan boss Ghosn seeks to attend Tuesday board meeting: lawyer

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TOKYO (Reuters) – Ousted Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn is seeking permission from a Tokyo court to attend the automaker’s board meeting this week, his lawyer said on Monday, setting him up to face off against colleagues he has accused of orchestrating a boardroom coup.

FILE PHOTO : Former Nissan Motor Chairman Carlos Ghosn sits inside a car as he leaves his lawyer’s office after being released on bail from Tokyo Detention House, in Tokyo, Japan, March 6, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo

Ghosn, released last week on a $9 million bail after spending more than 100 days in detention, applied to the Tokyo District Court for permission to attend Tuesday’s board meeting, as required under bail conditions, his lawyer Junichiro Hironaka told reporters.

Attendance would offer Ghosn the first opportunity to speak with colleagues since his arrest in November. He faces charges of under-reporting his salary by about $82 million over nearly a decade – charges he has called “meritless”.

It would also come as Nissan Motor Co and alliance partners Renault SA and Mitsubishi Motors Corp plan to set up a joint board meeting structure, people with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

Some at Nissan had been unhappy with Ghosn’s push for a deeper tie-up, including possibly a full merger.

“If you’re a director of a company, it’s only natural to want to attend the board meeting,” Hironaka told reporters outside his office.

One of the world’s best-known auto executives, Ghosn was sacked as chairman of Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi, and resigned as chief executive of Renault. However, he remains on the boards of all three, given a shareholder vote is required to remove a board member.

If the court approves Ghosn’s participation, Nissan would likely allow him to dial in by teleconference, according to a person familiar with the company’s thinking. As Ghosn’s bail conditions prevent him from talking to people involved in his case, Nissan would likely bar him from attending in person, the person said.

Other bail conditions include Ghosn residing in Tokyo and not traveling abroad.

Lawyer Hironaka said the request was submitted on Friday and that he expected the court to decide on Monday.

NEW STRUCTURE

Ghosn’s arrest clouded the outlook for the alliance – the world’s biggest maker of automobiles excluding heavy trucks.

Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi plan to set up a joint board meeting structure under which Renault’s new chairman, Jean-Dominique Senard, is likely to take the chair, people with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

That would replace Dutch-based companies currently linking Nissan and Renault and, separately, Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors, the people said.

The heads of the three companies will hold a joint news conference at Nissan’s Yokohama headquarters on Tuesday, the Japanese automaker said.

TV Tokyo reported on Sunday that the meeting structure was aimed at discussing issues related to integrating operations.

Renault owns 43 percent of Nissan. Renault’s biggest shareholder, the French government, has said it would like to see the chairmanship of Renault and Nissan held by the same person. Some Nissan executives have long been unhappy with what they see as Renault’s outsized influence over the larger Nissan.

After Renault rescued the Japanese automaker from near-bankruptcy in 1999, Ghosn spent the majority of his time at Nissan as CEO and chairman. In 2017, he passed the Nissan CEO role to Hiroto Saikawa who, since the arrest, has blasted his former boss for holding too much power at Nissan.

Reporting by Aina Tanaka, Maki Shiraki, Tim Kelly, Ritsuko Ando and Kaori Kaneko; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Sam Holmes and Christopher Cushing



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