“I don’t have time to be dealing with a one-man show by someone who
broke the law and escaped justice,” said Nissan independent director
Masakazu Toyoda, one of the people singled out in a lengthy tirade by
the company’s former chairman and chief executive officer.
Ghosn struck out at Japanese prosecutors and Nissan’s top managers in
a two-and-a-half hour news conference in Beirut Wednesday, the first
since his arrest in November 2018 on suspicion of financial crimes,
and a Hollywood-worthy journey to freedom by train, concealment in a
black box and flight to the Middle East via private jet. He mostly
blamed the likeliest suspects, including successor-turned-accuser
Hiroto Saikawa, who himself had to step down as Nissan’s CEO following
a scandal over compensation in September.
“If that’s all he was going to say, he could have just said it in
Japan,” Saikawa told reporters outside his home in Tokyo, the morning
after Ghosn’s news conference. “The real reason he ran away is that he
was afraid of being found guilty.”
Saikawa was instrumental in Ghosn’s arrest and attacked him in a news
conference on the day the auto executive was arrested, barely
containing his anger over accusations that Ghosn had sought to pay
himself more than what was publicly disclosed, and using Nissan’s
money for his personal gain.
Ghosn returned the favour, singling out Saikawa for the attack. Ghosn
said when Saikawa became CEO, he told him “you take care of it, now
it’s your turn,” leaving him $20bn in cash. Ghosn said Nissan started
to decline in 2017, the year Saikawa took over, and implied that
Saikawa needed to find an excuse for underperformance and therefore
orchestrated his predecessor’s downfall.
Nissan’s shares are down about 37 per cent since Ghosn’s arrest, and
the automaker has reported decade-low profits with plans to cut 12,500
jobs.
Auto sales are slowing across the globe and new technologies from
self-driving cars to electrification are disrupting the industry. The
stock rose 1.8 per cent as of midday in Tokyo Thursday.
In addition to Toyoda and Saikawa, Ghosn also identified Hitoshi
Kawaguchi, another Nissan executive in charge of government liaisons,
as being part of the plot against him.
In response, Kawaguchi told reporters he has no regrets over Ghosn’s
ouster and wasn’t surprised that he was singled out by the former CEO.
“I’m surprised that he wasn’t able to explain his misdeeds and
personal use of company funds.”
“Saikawa, Kawaguchi — the names that came out were mostly expected,“
said Koji Endo, an analyst at SBI Securities Co., said of Ghosn’s
remarks. “The protestations of innocence and criticism of the criminal
justice systems were also predictable.”
Saikawa had struggled to mend the ties that were frayed between Nissan
and Renault SA, its top shareholder and partner in a car-making
alliance that also includes Mitsubishi Motors Corp. Saikawa stepped
down as CEO in September after an internal investigation by Nissan
found he had been overpaid by 96.5m yen ($883,700) via stock
appreciation rights, or 47m yen after tax.
Nissan issued a statement ahead of Ghosn’s news conference, saying the
former leader was removed after a “robust, thorough” internal
investigation and said it will continue to take appropriate legal
action.

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