March 10, 2019 / 11:47 PM / 2 months ago

Japan court blocks ex-Nissan boss Ghosn from attending board meeting

TOKYO/PARIS (Reuters) - A Tokyo court rejected ousted Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn’s request to attend a board meeting this week, denying him a seat at the table even as the carmaker looks set to bolster an alliance he built over two decades.

Prosecutors submitted a document to the Tokyo District Court from Nissan stating its opposition to Ghosn attending Tuesday’s board meeting, Ghosn’s lawyer, Junichiro Hironaka, told reporters.

“Nissan’s strong opposition to Ghosn’s attendance is very regrettable,” Hironaka said outside his law office. The defence team still had time to appeal the decision, he added, and the lawyers later duly filed an appeal, according to Kyodo News.

Ghosn was released on a $9 million (6.9 million pounds) bail only last week after more than 100 days in detention. He faces charges of under-reporting his salary at Nissan by about $82 million over nearly a decade - charges he has called “meritless”.

The Tokyo District Court on Monday declined to temporarily suspend a condition of Ghosn’s bail that stops him from meeting people linked to his case, blocking what would have been a dramatic face off between the once-feted executive and the colleagues he has accused of fomenting a coup.

The court did not give a reason for its ruling.

Nissan could not be reached immediately for a comment outside business hours.

The court’s decision came as French automaker Renault SA, Nissan’s top shareholder, confirmed it was in talks with Nissan Motor and Mitsubishi Motors about setting up a new alliance body to improve their collaboration.

Ghosn’s dramatic arrest in November has caused concerns about the future of the three-way alliance, the world’s largest maker of automobiles excluding heavy trucks.

“The proposed arrangement will have no impact on the existence of the (alliance agreement) and the cross-shareholding structure, which will both remain in place,” Renault said.

Former Nissan Motor Chairman Carlos Ghosn accompanied by his wife Carole Ghosn, arrives at his place of residence in Tokyo, Japan, March 8, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato

JOINT BOARD MEETING

Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi plan to set up a joint board meeting structure under which Renault’s new chairman, Jean-Dominique Senard, is likely to take the chair, people with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

That would replace Dutch-based companies currently linking Nissan and Renault and, separately, Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors, the people said.

The heads of the partners will hold a press briefing at Nissan’s Yokohama headquarters on Tuesday, Nissan said.

Hironaka said Ghosn would meet the press at an “opportune time”, but that it would not be on Tuesday.

Some at Nissan had been unhappy with Ghosn’s push for a deeper tie-up, including possibly a full merger.

Former Nissan Motor Chairman Carlos Ghosn arrives at his place of residence in Tokyo, Japan, March 8, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

One of the world’s best-known auto executives, Ghosn was sacked as chairman of Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi, and resigned as chief executive of Renault after his arrest.

However, he remains on the boards of all three, given a shareholder vote is required to remove a board member.

If his request to attend the board meeting had been approved, he would have been expected to dial into the meeting via teleconference, given the conditions of his bail, according to a person familiar with Nissan’s thinking.

Hironaka said Ghosn had received an invitation to the meeting with details of a time and location, and that there had been no discussion on whether he would attend in person or not.

Reporting by Aina Tanaka, Maki Shiraki, Tim Kelly, Ritsuko Ando and Kaori Kaneko in Tokyo and Sudip Kar-Gupta in Paris; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Himani Sarkar

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