PARIS -- Renault's Chief Performance Officer Stefan Mueller is leaving the company, sources said. The move likely clears the way for rival candidate Thierry Bollore to be named second-in-command and eventual successor to CEO Carlos Ghosn.
Mueller, chief competitive officer and joint No. 2 at Renault with Bollore, had been vying for the top post in the succession process underway at the French automaker.
Mueller departure was agreed this week, according to one of the company sources.
"As of today Stefan Mueller has not left the company," Renault spokesman Frederic Texier said. He declined to comment when asked whether Mueller’s departure had been decided.
Ghosn, 63, had earlier been expected to hand over the reins to a new chief executive and move to a another role at the helm of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance.
But sources said the plan foundered on differences with the French state, Renault’s biggest shareholder, over the alliance’s future shape and direction. Renault currently holds 43.4 percent of Nissan, which in turn controls Mitsubishi Motors via a 34 percent stake.
Renault now plans to propose Ghosn’s reappointment to the next annual shareholder meeting in June, sources also said, confirming a Feb. 1 report in Le Figaro.
The government has yet to agree with Renault on a “road map” for the alliance or bless Bollore’s promotion to the new position of chief operating officer and heir apparent.
Both sides are seeking to avoid a repeat of a bitter 2015 clash in which France raised its Renault stake to swing a shareholder vote and secure double voting rights. The government also pushed unsuccessfully for a full Renault-Nissan merger on terms that would safeguard French industrial interests.
The appointment of Ghosn’s second-in-command is expected to be approved at a Feb. 15 board meeting ahead of Renault’s full-year results presentation the following day.
German-born Mueller, 57 worked for BMW, Ford and Volkswagen during his career. He joined Renault in 2012 as head of its Europe region, then was promoted to chief performance officer in 2016.
Bollore, 54, began his career at Michelin, like Ghosn. He joined Renault as head of the manufacturing and supply chain in 2012 and became chief competitiveness officer the next year.