Carlos Ghosn to 'speak freely' after his escape; what's in store?

Carlos Ghosn, who fled to his childhood home of Lebanon just more than a week ago, has gone from being one of the world's best-known businessmen to an international fugitive in little more than a year.
Carlos Ghosn, who fled to his childhood home of Lebanon just more than a week ago, has gone from being one of the world's best-known businessmen to an international fugitive in little more than a year.
Image: Reuters

On Wednesday afternoon, ousted Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn is set to hold his first live news conference since his arrest in November 2018 on financial misconduct charges, saying his escape from Japan has meant he can communicate “freely”.

The former Nissan and Renault SA chairperson has denied all charges against him and said he was the victim of “back-stabbing” and “conspiracy” by Nissan executives who wanted to derail his efforts to merge the two automakers.

Ghosn, who fled to his childhood home of Lebanon just more than a week ago, has gone from being one of the world's best-known businessmen to an international fugitive in little more than a year. He is due to address reporters in Beirut.

WHAT IS GHOSN EXPECTED TO SAY?

The news conference will give Ghosn a chance to further detail his assertions that Nissan executives, with help from the Japanese government, conspired to orchestrate his downfall to prevent Nissan being merged with alliance partner Renault.

His lawyers have previously said he was the victim of a “secret task force” formed by government officials and Nissan executives who wanted him out.

In a video message in April, he said there were a “few executives” that targeted him “for their own interest and for their own selfish fears”.

That video was edited by his legal team to remove the names of people Ghosn accused of treachery, due to legal concerns.

Ghosn, who fled to a country which has no extradition treaty with Japan, told Fox Business that he plans to identify those he believes responsible at the news conference, the US broadcaster reported.

WHO ELSE HAS BEEN CAUGHT UP IN THE SAGA?

Ghosn is not the only senior executive at Nissan who has faced allegations of financial misconduct. An internal investigation found that former CEO Hiroto Saikawa and other executives received improper compensation.

That forced Saikawa to step down last year. The former CEO and one-time Ghosn protégé has said he received the stock-related compensation under “a scheme of the Ghosn era”.

Attention has also focused on another Nissan executive who helped oust Ghosn, but was later hit himself by allegations of over-payment. Nissan has said its investigation found no evidence against the executive, Hari Nada, who has since been demoted.

WHAT ABOUT OTHER GOVERNANCE RISKS?

Renault's former CEO Thierry Bolloré sought to flag alleged conflicts of interest and governance problems at Nissan before departing the French automaker, France's Le Monde has reported, citing a letter he wrote to the board.

Bolloré told the board he was particularly concerned by the revelation that Nissan had a list of 80 managers implicated in financial dealings similar to the ones attributed to Ghosn.

He also raised questions over the internal investigation surrounding Ghosn and issues with the chain of command at Nissan, saying some board members were sometimes not informed about internal matters, Le Monde reported.

Nissan has denied there were any irregularities in its investigation of Ghosn's affairs and said the automaker had reviewed its processes again after Bolloré's letter.

WHAT ELSE COULD GHOSN LEVEL AT NISSAN?

Ghosn's legal team has previously argued it was being denied access to a trove of digital data collected by prosecutors from Nissan and its employees.

Prosecutors have declined to release 6,000 pieces of evidence because of concerns voiced by Nissan that the evidence includes sensitive information about the automaker's operations or personal information about its employees.

HOW HAS NISSAN FARED SINCE GHOSN?

The automaker reported a 70% drop in quarterly profit in November and cut its full-year forecast to an 11-year low amid falling sales.

Its share price fell 27% last year, marking the worst annual performance in more than a decade, and adding to a 22% decline in 2018.

The automaker has embarked on a turnaround plan to roll back the expansionist strategy championed by Ghosn, but that effort has been complicated by the ousting of Saikawa and, more recently, the resignation of executive Jun Seki, who was tasked with leading the recovery.


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