Nissan denies corporate conspiracy to oust Ghosn

TOKYO — Nissan rejected suggestions of a conspiracy within the company to oust former Chairman Carlos Ghosn.

Ghosn’s 2018 arrest in Japan on financial misconduct charges has led to speculation that the move was orchestrated by Nissan executives who opposed closer ties with alliance partner Renault.

“I know that in books and the media there has been talk about a conspiracy, but there are no facts whatsoever to support this,” Motoo Nagai, chairman of Nissan’s auditing committee, told shareholders at the company’s annual meeting in Yokohama on Monday.

Responding to demands from a shareholder to address the speculation, Nagai said that the investigation into Ghosn was conducted both internally and by outside law firms.

Nissan has long maintained that the decision to oust Ghosn turned on allegations of underreporting his income and other financial transgressions leveled by Tokyo prosecutors. Ghosn, who fled toLebanon at the end of 2019 as he awaited trial in Japan, has said his arrest was set up by Nissan executives.

Monday’s meeting lasted almost two hours, twice as long as planned, as shareholders grilled CEO Makoto Uchida on how he planned to restore trust in the company following the Ghosn scandal, and revive sales in the United States and China.

Uchida, who took the post in December, told shareholders that he would stick to a promise to step down as leader if he fails to deliver on a turnaround plan for the Japanese automaker, which last month reported its first annual loss in 11 years.

Uchida said his goal is to reach positive cash flow during the latter half of the next fiscal year, or October 2021 through March 2022. Nissan is enacting a pay freeze for senior managers for at least six months as it seeks to turn the business around, he said.

“I will put Nissan’s growth back on track,” Uchida said, adding that he was prepared to step down if he fails. “We will make the utmost effort to resume shareholder returns as soon as possible.”

Seeking to slash costs and downsize after years of excessive spending in the pursuit of market share, Nissan plans to cut its model range by about a fifth and reduce production capacity, shuttering plants in Spain and Indonesia and laying off workers in countries including Mexico.

It now aims to sell 5 million vehicles a year, far fewer than past ambitions of 8 million.

Nissan’s dividends are important for Renault, Nissan’s alliance partner of 20 years and 43 percent shareholder, which relies on the cash to boost its own payouts. The French automaker is also cutting costs and dividends, as it weathers the downturn in global demand for automobiles.

Reuters and Bloomberg contributed to this report

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