Nissan Motor retains Saikawa as CEO

Hiroto Saikawa

Nissan Motor stated Friday that Hiroto Saikawa would remain as chief executive, backing the protege of former chairman Carlos Ghosn even as top shareholder Renault had previously pushed for a modification in the Japanese automaker’s leadership.

Saikawa’s re-appointment is likely to be observed as a rebuff to Renault SA, which has pushed for leadership modifications as a prelude to merger talks, sources at both companies have informed Reuters. Saikawa – who has long opposed full integration – is observed as an obstacle to a tie-up, several people have stated.

Nissan has proposed that Renault Chief Executive Thierry Bollore is going to join the board, while Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard will stay on it. The board will be boosted to 11 members from eight and will consist of seven outside directors. The proposals will be put to a shareholder vote in June.

The make-up of Nissan’s board has broad implications for the Nissan-Renault alliance. The unequal relationship between the two – smaller Renault has a bigger stake in Nissan – has long been a source of friction.

The board unanimously supported Saikawa, even while recognizing he may have not done enough to rein in Ghosn, one external director stated. Ghosn, who has been charged with financial misconduct, has rejected wrongdoing.

“While there are issues pertaining to Saikawa’s responsibility, we feel it is more constructive to concentrate on cooperation within the alliance, Nissan’s recovery and its strategic plan,” Keiko Ihara stated.

“We had a robust debate, we took our time to look at the risks … but in the end, all of the directors agreed to the appointment,” she stated, adding that Renault’s Senard had agreed at a meeting previously this week to the decision to keep Saikawa.

However, a source near to Senard stated there had been no vote previously this week, unanimous or otherwise, on Saikawa’s reappointment as CEO.

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