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Carlos Ghosn offers to quit Renault in order to heal Nissan rift


After standing by its leader since his arrest two months ago, the French automaker is preparing to finally replace him, turning its focus to securing the future of the world’s biggest auto alliance

Ghosn has offered to resign as CEO and chairman of Renault, and the company is calculating his pension and other compensation that he is entitled too, said a person who had knowledge of the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Ghosn would remain a member of the board until a meeting of general shareholders in June.

The French government, the largest shareholder in Renault, has turned up pressure on the company to cut ties with Mr. Ghosn so it can focus on strengthening its alliance with the Japanese automakers Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors. The partnership has employees around the world, and Renault, with over 47,000 workers, is one of France’s biggest employers. Bruno Le Maire, France’s finance minister, said last week that preserving jobs was a “priority.”

Renault’s nomination committee is expected to recommend Jean-Dominique Senard, chief executive of the French tire maker Michelin, as chairman of the board, the person said, and Thierry Bolloré, Renault’s chief operating officer, as chief executive. Mr. Bolloré has filled in for Mr. Ghosn since Mr. Ghosn was arrested in November on accusations of financial misconduct at Nissan, where he was also chairman.

Renault installed temporary leadership but kept Mr. Ghosn officially at the helm even as Nissan and Mitsubishi fired him as chairman.

“We now must move to a new phase,” stated Le Maire last week.

After replacing Mr. Ghosn, Renault plans to intensify efforts to repair the acrimonious rift that opened with Nissan, the dominant partner in the alliance, after his arrest.

Since then, each company has viewed the other as trying to seize the opportunity to tip the balance of power in its favor. Mr. Ghosn was the dominant personality who held the alliance together, overseeing the operation and performance of the three companies simultaneously.

Addressing the leadership crisis may fall mainly to Mr. Senard, a veteran industrialist known in France for his no-nonsense management style. He will need to “install a climate of confidence between all the parties,” said Ollivier Lemal, the managing director for France of the management consulting firm EIM.

“The key issue is not so much the leadership of Renault, but who is going to lead, manage and develop the alliance,” he stated.

 “And for that, you need someone who is going to devote all his time and energy to restore dialogue between the manufacturers.” He further added.

The replacement of Mr. Ghosn at Renault will be a turning point in the dramatic saga of one of the most powerful executives in the auto industry. Over two decades, he built one of the world’s most successful groups in the sector by reviving Nissan and Renault, an alliance that later expanded to include Mitsubishi.

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