Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn to step down, to stay as Chairman

Carlos Ghosn leaves after the presentation of Renault’s 2016 annual results at their headquarters near Paris on February 10, 2017. (Reuters)

Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn will step down as chief executive at the Japanese automaker but will remain chairman as he focuses on its alliance with Renault and Mitsubishi, the company said Thursday.

Ghosn, who is widely credited with turning around a near-bankrupt Nissan in the late nineties, will be replaced by Hiroto Saikawa, who is the current co-chief executive, on April 1. The changes will be formalized at a general shareholders’ meeting in June.

“Having recently taken on new responsibilities at Mitsubishi Motors, and taking into consideration the upcoming Nissan general shareholders meeting, I have decided that the time is right for Hiroto Saikawa to succeed me as Nissan’s CEO,” Ghosn said in a statement.

Ghosn is still the CEO of Renault and chairman of the three alliance companies. The reshuffle would allow Ghosn to “focus on the group’s alliance” with French automaker Renault and Japan’s Mitsubishi, and was not linked to health or other problems, Nissan spokeswoman Keiko Hoshino told AFP.

“As Chairman of all three Alliance companies, and as Chief Executive Officer of the Renault Group, Mr Ghosn wishes to focus more of his attention on the expansion and stewardship of the alliance,” Nissan said. Tokyo-listed shares in Nissan fell 0.67 percent to 1,111 yen in early trade.

“He (Ghosn) is a busy man. He may stay a bit away from Nissan but as long as he has the right to represent the company, the effect will be limited,” Toshihiko Matsuno, chief strategist at SMBC Friend Securities, said.

“As the announcement came just before the stock market opened, investors sold the stock right out of their first impression,” Matsuno said, adding selling was likely to accelerate.

Nissan threw Mitsubishi a lifeline in May when it announced plans to buy a one-third stake in the crisis-hit automaker for about $2.2 billion. The smaller rival had been wrestling with a mileage-cheating scandal that hammered sales.

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