Wednesday, September 11, 2019

GHOSN'S GHOST OF A CHANCE

There’s a glimmer of hope for Carlos Ghosn, that he may be spared the ignominy of court proceedings against him, for misreporting his income.

Charges which he vehemently denies and promises to vigorously defend.

No-one could blame Ghosn for enmity towards Nissan. Company officers had even convinced Japanese court officials to detain and question Ghosn's wife over their financial affairs.

This past week, his arch nemesis, former colleague, and the man who executed a clumsy coup d’etat to oust Ghosn from his job, has admitted that he himself was overpaid by almost half a million dollars.

Hiroto Saikawa has fallen out of favour with the Nissan Board, activist shareholders, the Japanese media, and Nissan employees after it was revealed that he too is involved in misreporting; that HE (Saikawa), in fact, signed off ALL Carlos Ghosn’s remuneration agreements; and it was he who requested the Nissan Board to buy a second house for Ghosn in Tokyo.


It has also been revealed that at the recent Nissan Board meeting in June, and election of Board members, Saikawa received only 78% of votes in his favour, with two large proxy shareholder groups voting against his appointment as CEO.

Since engineering the downfall of Ghosn, things at Nissan have gone from bad to worse, to very, very bad.

Under Saikawa's stewardship, Nissan’s stockpile of profits have simply shrunk - disappeared off the P&L.

Carlos Ghosn’s co-accused, Gregg Kelly, who also denies any charges of wrongdoing, said that Mr. Saikawa had increased his earnings, by improperly changing the execution date of stock-based compensation.

Nissan’s profits fell 47% in 2018; and in the period April-June 2019, Nissan’s profits plunged 94%. The reasons include falling appeal of passenger cars, which Saikawa insists Nissan will keep on producing and renewing; and a stagnant lineup of trucks and SUVs which will cost billions to replace, and he is also blamed for ignoring its American division, and desperate dealers, to revamp the Nissan lineup to focus on big trucks and SUVs.

Saikawa, for his part, blames all these problems on Ghosn.


However the fall in profits, falling sales, and the announcement that Nissan will cut almost 13,000 jobs worldwide have all occurred on Saikawa's watch, whilst Ghosn languished in a Tokyo jail.

All of this weakens Nissan’s role in the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, and strengthens Renault’s position, which could finally lead to a merger with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (which Saikawa has forcefully opposed).

In shooting down Renault’s initial merger talks with FCA, Saikawa said that Nissan was the most profitable member of the Alliance, and also the sales leader, and demanded that the Alliance agreement be completely re-written to give Nissan a stronger and more powerful voting status. However, in just six months of 2019 its value, its sales and its profits dropped off a cliff.

In the land where loss-of-face is a major cultural failing, Nissan looks set to become a laughing stock in the Japanese and global automotive scene, especially as long as Saikawa-san holds the top job.

John Crawford

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