AMSTERDAM -- The CEOs of Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors will jointly lead their automaking alliance, splitting a role maintained by Carlos Ghosn for two decades.
The decision foils attempts by Renault to transfer Ghosn's chairmanship of the alliance board to deputy CEO Thierry Bollore as Nissan seeks to end the French automaker's control of the partnership with its 43.4 percent ownership of Nissan.
Under its 2002 master agreement, the alliance is chaired by the sitting CEO of Renault, a post still held by Ghosn. Nissan's reciprocal 15 percent stake in its French parent currently has no voting rights.
Ghosn, who is in detention in Japan, still holds the alliance titles of chairman and CEO. No changes were made to capital structure or governance, said a person with knowledge of the matter who asked not to be identified.
Who will lead the alliance after Ghosn's arrest has been a key question. Currently Renault has the right to appoint the chairman and CEO of the alliance, with Nissan picking the vice-chairman. Splitting the leadership defuses that question for now.
The three chiefs are "completely aligned on direction," Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa said following the first meeting of the alliance board since Ghosn was detained over alleged financial improprieties and stripped of his job as chairman of Nissan and Mitsubishi.
"It was an extremely good meeting," Saikawa told reporters Thursday. "We were able to confirm that the three of us would take the lead, which was excellent."
The board did not discuss personnel appointments, just operations, Saikawa said.
Speaking separately to reporters, Mitsubishi CEO Osamu Masuko said it was important to restore a sense of normalcy, and that alliance rules were not discussed. The gathering lasted less than an hour, he said. The top executives agreed to meet more often, for example on the sidelines of international auto shows, Masuko said.
Senior alliance executives attended the meeting at the alliance's headquarters in Amsterdam. The meeting was set up prior to Ghosn’s arrest.
Executives were scheduled to discuss alliance operations, such as mobility, regional development, r&d and its Russian business. That led to a somewhat unusual arrangement. Saikawa, Bollore and Masuko all participated via video conference, while reporters staked out the Brutalist HQ building with no access to the proceedings. Photographers snapped photos of attendees through the tinted windows of Renault Talisman sedans as they pulled in.