Renault board votes to replace CEO Thierry Bollore

Bloomberg Paris | Updated on October 11, 2019 Published on October 11, 2019

Clotilde Delbos   -  Bloomberg

Board met on Friday and decided to end the CEO’s mandate

Renault SA ousted Chief Executive Officer Thierry Bollore just days after partner Nissan Motor Co. chose a new CEO, a sign the carmakers are seeking to move past the Carlos Ghosn era and repair their troubled alliance.

Renault’s board named Chief Financial Officer Clotilde Delbos as interim CEO, and will begin looking for a permanent replacement, according to a statement Friday. Bollore, who served as Ghosn’s second-in-command before taking the helm in January, will leave immediately.

In naming Delbos, 52, Renault has chosen an insider in a bid to minimise further disruption at the carmaker, which has been struggling over the past year to overcome the shock of Ghosn’s arrest as well as a cooling of the global auto industry. She’ll be flanked by two new deputy managing directors, Olivier Murguet and Jose-Vincente de los Mozos.

This comes as another blow for a company that urgently needs direction and stability, Evercore ISI analyst Arndt Ellinghorst said in a note. We are worried that Renault’s competitive position will further erode in an automotive world that’s getting tougher by the day.

Ghosn headed Renault and Nissan for years and held their two-decade partnership together until his arrest last November in Japan on charges of financial misconduct, which he has denied. His downfall exposed poor corporate governance at Nissan and brought long-simmering tensions between the automakers to a boil.

Deal Scrapped

Resolving their differences is a priority for Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard and would be a prerequisite to reviving merger discussions with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, scrapped earlier this year after Nissan failed to back a deal.

Bollore has had tense relations with Senard and has been viewed negatively by Nissan and the French government as a holdover from the Ghosn era, Bloomberg and other media have reported. The French state holds a 15% stake in Renault.

In an interview with Les Echos published on Thursday, Bollore denounced the move to oust him and defended his record. He said he found out through the press that Senard wanted him to leave and called on the French state, as a shareholder, not to destabilize Renault.

The brutality and unexpected nature of what’s taking place are astonishing, Bollore told the newspaper. On an operational level, I don’t see where the fault lies.

Head Hunter

One recruiting firm was already identified to search, said two people with knowledge of the matter. The company didn’t give a timetable for naming a permanent successor.

Following Ghosn’s arrest in November 2018, outsiders cited possible replacements including Carlos Tavares, a former Renault executive who is now CEO of rival automaker PSA Group, and Airbus SE’s former head of commercial aircraft, Fabrice Bregier, as well as Didier Leroy, a senior executive at Toyota Motor Corp.

I’m not a candidate and I wasn’t contacted, Leroy said by phone. I’m very happy at Toyota, and I have the trust of Akio Toyoda. Toyoda is the president of Toyota.

The French government has been pushing Renault and Nissan for months to repair their broken relationship and strengthen their three-way alliance with Mitsubishi Motors Corp.

Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa resigned in September following a scandal over-pay, and this week the carmaker tapped Makoto Uchida, 53, the head of its China joint venture, as CEO, to work alongside new Chief Operating Officer Ashwani Gupta.

Published on October 11, 2019
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