Renault's Struggles Put CEO On the Spot With Its Board -- WSJ

Date : 10/11/2019 @ 7:02AM
Source : Dow Jones News
Stock : Renault SA (RNO)
Quote : 44.13  0.515 (1.18%) @ 3:09PM
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Renault's Struggles Put CEO On the Spot With Its Board -- WSJ

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By Nick Kostov 

This article is being republished as part of our daily reproduction of WSJ.com articles that also appeared in the U.S. print edition of The Wall Street Journal (October 11, 2019).

PARIS -- Renault SA's board is planning a vote Friday on whether to remove Chief Executive Thierry Bolloré amid concerns over the car maker's performance and its tense relationship with Nissan Motor Co., its partner in a globe-spanning alliance, according to people familiar with the matter.

Renault said in a statement that its board would meet "to discuss the corporate governance of the group." A spokeswoman declined to comment further.

Mr. Bolloré, who took the top job at Renault after the arrest of then-CEO Carlos Ghosn late last year, addressed his future at the French auto maker in a gathering of company employees on Thursday, according to people who attended the question-and-answer session.

"It's not up to me to talk about it. The board deals with governance," Mr. Bolloré said, according to one of those people.

The executive didn't respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

The Renault-Nissan alliance has been in upheaval since the arrest of Mr. Ghosn, who once headed both companies. The Japanese car maker recently replaced Chief Executive Hiroto Saikawa, a longtime lieutenant of Mr. Ghosn, with a triumvirate of executives.

Mr. Ghosn was charged in Japan with financial misconduct. He has said he is innocent.

Mr. Bolloré, who was serving as deputy CEO, was swiftly tapped to steady the ship at Renault in Mr. Ghosn's absence, but he has struggled to heal the divide with Nissan.

The French state, which is Renault's largest shareholder, has been pushing Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard to turn the page on the Ghosn era, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Senard has begun to question whether Mr. Bolloré is too divisive a figure as the chairman tries to mend relations with Nissan and get it to agree to a deepening of the alliance, one of these people said.

Nissan executives believe Mr. Bolloré dragged his feet in assisting its investigation into Mr. Ghosn's tenure, according to people familiar with their thinking. Also, his rocky relationship with Nissan's leadership hasn't helped in resolving contentious issues, including the Japanese company's demand that Renault rebalance the cross-shareholding underlying the alliance. Renault owns 43.4% of Nissan, while the Japanese car maker owns a 15% stake in Renault without voting rights.

Some people close to Renault cautioned that any push to remove Mr. Bolloré risks further destabilizing the French car maker.

"If anyone with the Ghosn label gets removed, we're going to decimate ourselves in terms of governance," one of the people said.

Earlier this year, Renault was involved in a protracted merger dance with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, but a deal fell apart after the two car makers failed to secure the explicit support of Nissan. The merger negotiations were led by Mr. Senard, who came over from Michelin to take the chairmanship at Renault early this year.

In July, Renault cut its revenue outlook for 2019 in the face of falling sales in France, Turkey and Argentina, as well as a decline in demand for diesel engines in Europe.

If Mr. Bolloré were to be ousted, Renault would likely name an interim CEO while searching for a permanent successor, according to people familiar with the matter. Clotilde Delbos, the company's chief financial officer, could be tapped to stand in as chief executive, one of these people said.

Write to Nick Kostov at Nick.Kostov@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 11, 2019 02:47 ET (06:47 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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