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Renault-Nissan board meets amid deepening leadership crisis



PARIS (Reuters) – Renault (RENA.PA) and Nissan (7201.T) executives will gather on Tuesday for a board meeting of their car making alliance, two sources said, amid tensions over the future of the partnership in the wake of Chairman Carlos Ghosn’s arrest last month.

FILE PHOTO: Carlos Ghosn, former CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance arrives to a news conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Jan. 4, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes/File Photo

The two days of talks in Amsterdam come after Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa rebuffed a demand from parent Renault for an extraordinary shareholder meeting that would have offered the French carmaker a chance to weigh in on Ghosn’s replacement as chairman and on other Nissan board appointments.

Officials for Renault and the alliance did not return calls and messages seeking comment after office hours.

Ghosn was charged last week alongside alleged accomplice Greg Kelly and Nissan itself over the company’s failure to declare $43 million in deferred income that Ghosn had arranged to be paid while chairman and CEO. Both men remain in custody.

Saikawa, who took over from Ghosn as CEO last year, may attend the Amsterdam meeting, the sources said, and talk face-to-face with Renault Deputy CEO Thierry Bollore for the first time since Ghosn was detained on Nov. 19.

The scandal has shaken the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance, with Saikawa calling for changes to weaken Renault’s control as he moved to oust Ghosn in the week of his arrest.

Renault owns 43.4 percent of Nissan, whose reciprocal 15 percent stake in its French parent carries no voting rights. Nissan in turn controls Mitsubishi via a 34 percent holding.

The gathering will also discuss difficulties that have arisen within some alliance vehicle and powertrain programs since the scandal erupted, one source said.

Renault directors were briefed last week on the Nissan investigation that led to Ghosn’s arrest but reiterated their earlier decision to keep him in office as chairman and CEO.

But the Renault board has yet to be given direct access to Nissan’s findings, which are being closely held by Renault lawyers answering to Ghosn’s long-standing chief of staff and head of legal affairs at Renault, Mouna Sepehri.

“We understand that the raw details of the misconduct have yet to reach each of Renault’s board members,” Saikawa said on Monday after Nissan directors rebuffed the shareholder meeting demand. “We hope the board will listen to our explanation.”

Reporting by Laurence Frost; Editing by Dan Grebler