PARIS (Reuters) - Judo enthusiast Patrick Pelata knows all about falls, and he looks almost certain to take one to protect his boss Carlos Ghosn as an embarrassing spying debacle engulfs Renault's boardroom.
As Chief Operating Officer, 55 year-old Pelata took a leading role when the company shocked the auto industry in January, firing three top executives and going public with an investigation into industrial espionage.
Pelata has hinted that his job is on the line now that there are doubts about the affair and a possibility that the allegations may be unfounded.
The case has strained relations between the French government and Renault, as the 15 percent state-owned carmaker came under fire for not informing authorities of its suspicions soon enough and carrying out its own investigation first.
France's Economy Minister Christine Lagarde said Renault could face "consequences" from the episode, and Pelata said they would be accepted "up to the highest level of the company, that is to say up to myself."
A source close to the carmaker told Reuters Pelata would probably fall on his sword to protect Ghosn, who is CEO of Renault and its alliance partner Nissan.
"It's likely to be Patrick Pelata who forms the shield to protect the CEO," the source said on Friday. "In this story, somebody has to throw themselves on the grenade."
A Renault spokeswoman declined to comment.