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TechnologyNissan Ousts CEO Over Pay Scandal as Turmoil Deepens

07:05  10 september  2019
07:05  10 september  2019 Source:   msn.com

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With Saikawa felled by a scandal over excess pay , the Japanese automaker finds itself in familiar territory, facing questions over its corporate governance Nissan ’s next CEO will face the challenge of righting a ship in disarray at a crucial moment, with global automakers rushing to position themselves

Chief Executive Officer Hiroto Saikawa was asked by the board on Monday to step down following a scandal over excess pay . Less than a year since the dramatic downfall of Carlos Ghosn, Nissan Motor Co. is losing another leader. Chief Executive Officer Hiroto Saikawa was asked by the board

Nissan Ousts CEO Over Pay Scandal as Turmoil Deepens Nissan Motors president and CEO Hiroto Saikawa speaks during a press conference at the company's headquarters in Yokohama, Kanagawa prefecture on January 24, 2019. - Carmaker Renault named two experienced French auto executives to replace arrested boss Carlos Ghosn on January 24, signalling the start of a new era for the French manufacturer and its vital but strained alliance with Nissan and Mitsubishi. (Photo by Martin BUREAU / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images) Less than a year since the dramatic downfall of Carlos Ghosn, Nissan Motor Co. is losing another leader.

Chief Executive Officer Hiroto Saikawa was asked by the board on Monday to step down by Sept. 16. He’ll be replaced by Chief Operating Officer Yasuhiro Yamauchi until a permanent replacement is named by the end of October. Nissan shares rose as much as 3.1% on Tuesday following the announcement.

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Nissan Motor Co. Chief Executive Officer Hiroto Saikawa will step down over a scandal involving inflated stock-linked bonuses, deepening the crisis at the Japanese automaker that have come to light since the arrest of former Chairman Carlos Ghosn.

With Saikawa felled by a scandal over excess pay , the Japanese automaker finds itself in familiar territory, facing questions over its corporate Nissan 's CEO appeared before the world's media just hours after the former chairman's November 19 arrest to denounce his behaviour, describing his

With Saikawa felled by a scandal over excess pay, the Japanese automaker finds itself in familiar territory, facing questions over its corporate governance and an uncertain future. In the months since Ghosn — the auto titan who ruled over Nissan for two decades — was arrested for allegedly under-reporting his own compensation and misappropriating funds, Nissan has struggled to bounce back.

Under Saikawa’s reign, he distanced Nissan from his larger-than-life predecessor, while earnings deteriorated and relations with top shareholder Renault SA soured to the point that a mega-merger with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV collapsed. Nissan’s next CEO will face the challenge of righting a ship in disarray at a sensitive time, with global automakers rushing to position themselves for the coming age of electric vehicles and robocars.

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Nissan Motor CEO Hiroto Saikawa is stepping down after an internal company investigation revealed falsified documents that boosted his Nissan is asking those who benefited from such overpayments to repay the overpaid amounts, "regardless of their lack of awareness of the misconduct."

Saikawa, Ghosn’s handpicked successor as CEO , will resign as of Sept. 16 and be replaced on an acting basis by Chief Operating Officer Yasuhiro Yamauchi. A new CEO will be named by the end of October, the automaker said in a late-night news conference in Yokohama, near Tokyo, on Monday.

Pressure on Saikawa intensified following reports last week that he and other Nissan executives were paid more than they were entitled, dealing a final blow to the under-siege CEO. Amid the fallout from losing a leader who loomed large over the company for a generation, Nissan has also been grappling with decade-low profits and job cuts as car sales slow globally.

“I should have clarified, ironed out everything and handed my baton over to a successor, but I couldn’t finish everything,” Saikawa said to reporters late Monday, dressed in his usual white shirt and jacket without a tie.

“Nissan needed a leader with deft political skills who embodied a clean break with the Ghosn era. Saikawa wasn’t it.”

--Chris Bryant, Bloomberg Opinion columnist

To read the column, click here

The Nissan lifer, 65, betrayed few emotions as he sat alone, taking questions after the board had finished explaining his departure. “I wanted to set things right and resign.”

Crisis-hit Nissan CEO set to resign as board meets

Crisis-hit Nissan CEO set to resign as board meets The CEO of crisis-hit Japanese automaker Nissan plans to resign, reports said Monday, as the firm's board meets to discuss an audit launched after former chief Carlos Ghosn's arrest over financial misconduct. Hiroto Saikawa's reported decision to step down comes days after he admitted receiving overpayments, and is the latest blow to the firm after Ghosn's arrest and ouster. Nissan said it had no immediate comment on the reports, which first emerged overnight.

Hiroto Saikawa’s resignation comes less than a year after former CEO ’s arrest.

Nissan 's global CEO resigned as the automaker remains entrenched in chaos following the firing But when Ghosn was ousted , Saikawa sought to distance himself from his previous boss, saying Carlos Ghosn scandal : Nissan chairman allegedly used carmaker's money to buy personal homes, pay sister.

Ten Candidates

The board’s nomination committee will select the next CEO from a pool of about 10 candidates, said lead director Masakazu Toyoda. The prospects include non-Japanese, women and people from Renault, Nissan’s partner in a global auto-making alliance that also includes Mitsubishi Motors Corp.

Renault and its largest investor, the French government, declined to comment on Saikawa’s resignation.

Read more: America’s Top Car Dealer Is Down on Nissan

An internal investigation by Nissan found Saikawa had been overpaid by 96.5 million yen ($901,000) via stock appreciation rights, or 47 million yen after tax. Under the plan, directors receive a bonus if the company’s share price performs better than a set target. Other executives were also said to have received excess pay.

The probe estimated that the sum of paid and unpaid amounts related to misconduct by Ghosn and Greg Kelly, a former senior executive who was arrested along with the chairman in November, is about 35 billion yen. Ghosn’s defense counsel responded with a statement calling Nissan’s position inconsistent, contradictory and incoherent, adding that Ghosn will continue to fight claims he believes are baseless.

Renault ousts CEO who replaced jailed former head Ghosn

  Renault ousts CEO who replaced jailed former head Ghosn Renault ousts CEO who replaced jailed former head GhosnIt came days after Nissan, with which Renault shares a deep alliance, named a new CEO, indicating the two companies were intent on cleaning house after a scandal over former chief Carlos Ghosn rattled their upper ranks.

Nissan ousts CEO Hiroto Saikawa over pay scandal as carmaker's turmoil deepens . Many fear that the new compensation scandal , which follows financial misconduct allegations against former Chairman Carlos Ghosn, will lead to a deterioration in Nissan ’s company image.

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Nissan Ousts CEO Over Pay Scandal as Turmoil Deepens© Bloomberg Former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn Visits Tokyo Court For Pretrial Hearing

Carlos Ghosn

Photographer: Toru Hanai/Bloomberg

Although Saikawa’s leadership has come under scrutiny since Ghosn’s arrest for financial crimes, he was reappointed as CEO by Nissan’s shareholders earlier this year. In June, Saikawa said that he should be held responsible for the instability unleashed by Ghosn’s downfall and that he wanted the company to accelerate the search for his replacement.

The issue over excess pay first came to light after Kelly accused Saikawa in a magazine interview of improperly receiving compensation. Nissan doesn’t consider the excess payment to have violated any laws, and Saikawa has denied he ordered the payments, saying the matter was mishandled by staff.

It’s an ironic turn of events for Saikawa, who went from being Ghosn’s protege to the public face of the accusations against him. Nissan’s CEO appeared before the world’s media just hours after the former chairman’s Nov. 19 arrest to denounce his behavior, describing his “indignation” and “despair” at the conduct of his former boss.

Nissan, Ghosn and Japan’s Legal Double Standards: Joe Nocera

Like Saikawa now, some of the allegations against Ghosn related to pay. The former chairman is out of jail on bail and due to face trial in Tokyo next year on charges that he failed to disclose compensation from Nissan, passed on trading losses to the carmaker and redirected company money into his own accounts. Ghosn denies all the allegations.

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Rocky Tenure

Saikawa’s tenure as the CEO of one of Japan’s automaking icons was marked by a series of missteps.

Just months after he took charge in April, 2017, Saikawa was criticized for not having bowed enough when apologizing for having used un-certified workers to sign off on inspections of newly built cars. Calls for him to resign by Japanese media were amplified after he didn’t show up at a press conference to address the falsification of emissions data.

The deterioration of Nissan’s business in the U.S. -- a source of tension between Ghosn and Saikawa before the chairman’s downfall -- has continued into this year. Saikawa has blamed Ghosn’s quest to grow market share in the U.S. at all costs, including by hiking incentives and boosting fleet sales.

Inside the Takedown That Landed Carlos Ghosn in a Japanese Jail

The deterioration in relations between Nissan and Renault since Ghosn’s arrest and an aborted merger with Fiat Chrysler also added to pressure. Long-held tensions between the two carmakers over control of their alliance broke into the open after Ghosn was arrested and worsened when Renault’s new chairman, Jean-Dominique Senard, pursued the Fiat deal without telling Nissan.

Nissan Ousts CEO Over Pay Scandal as Turmoil Deepens© Bloomberg Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi Motors Heads Hold News Conference as Ghosn Seeks to Regain Clout

Jean-Dominique Senard

Photographer: Akio Kon/Bloomberg

French Pressure

Saikawa started at Nissan after graduating from the University of Tokyo in 1977. Much of his career was spent in the purchasing department, a critical function in any company but especially so for an automaker, since procurement can account for as much as two-thirds of the cost of sales.

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He served on the board of Renault, Nissan’s biggest shareholder, between 2006 and 2016. During that period the alliance came under pressure from the French state, which had increased its stake in Renault without informing Ghosn.

Saikawa led Nissan’s negotiations with Renault and the French government in 2015 to address an imbalance that left the Japanese carmaker with no voting rights for its stake in the French carmaker. A crisis was averted after the French government pledged not to interfere in Nissan’s governance.

Since Ghosn’s arrest and ouster as chairman, Saikawa has led a company-wide overhaul of Nissan’s corporate governance, including by bringing in more outside directors. He continued to lead negotiations on re-balancing the capital ties with Renault before his resignation.

(Updates with shares)

--With assistance from Chester Dawson and Kae Inoue.

To contact the reporters on this story: Ma Jie in Tokyo at jma124@bloomberg.net;Tsuyoshi Inajima in Tokyo at tinajima@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Young-Sam Cho at ycho2@bloomberg.net, Reed Stevenson, Craig Trudell

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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