Embattled auto exec Ghosn files $1B lawsuit against Nissan

September 19, 2018. Carlos Ghosn, chairman of the alliance between Renault SA, Nissan Motor Co. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp., speaks during an interview at Nissan's headquarters in Yokohama, Japan. Bloomberg via Getty Images

Carlos Ghosn, possibly the only former auto tycoon to escape the law by being smuggled out of a country in a musical instrument case, has filed a $1 billion lawsuit against Nissan and about a dozen individuals in Beirut over his “imprisonment” in Japan, Lebanese officials said today, according to the Associated Press.

“According to the officials,” the AP says, Ghosn’s lawsuit accuses Nissan and the individuals in Beirut of defamation and of “fabricating charges” against him, which eventually put him behind bars in Japan.

Ghosn, 69, who began his executive career as the head of Michelin’s North American operation, was chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, a strategic partnership founded in 1999. He was hired in 1996 by Renault to turn around the money-losing company, and did.

Renault South America factory curitiba 1996 carlos ghosn
December 4, 1998. Inauguration of the “Ayrton Senna” Renault car factory in Curitiba. Carlos Ghosn, who was appointed Director General of Renault in 1996, on the production line. Sygma via Getty Images

He was doing the same for the alliance through his severe cost-cutting methods that were so successful, if unpopular with some, that he rose to comic-book superhero status in Japan, heading a major turnaround for Nissan.

But subsequent investigation showed evidence of misuse of company funds, leading to his arrest in Japan in November 2018 on charges of “breach of trust, misusing company assets for personal gains and violating securities laws by not fully disclosing his compensation,” AP says.

Carlos Ghosn 2000 paris auto show
September 28, 2000. Ghosn at the Paris Auto Show. Frédéric Pitchal

In December 2019, he jumped bail in Japan and was smuggled out of the country aboard a private jet to Lebanon, where he is a citizen. Lebanon, critically, has no extradition agreement with Japan. Prosecutors in Japan charged three Americans with helping Ghosn escape the country.

Ghosn, sullen and testy on his best of days when dealing with the automotive media, is also facing charges in France of tax evasion and alleged money laundering, fraud, and misuse of company assets while at the helm of the Renault-Nissan alliance.

The lawsuit is set to be heard in September in Lebanon.

March 27, 1999. Future General Director of Nissan Carlos Ghosn alongside L. Schweitzer and Nissan chairman Y.Tsuji and Y.Hanawa as Renault and Nissan prepare to sign a partnership agreement. Sygma via Getty Images



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    The Ghosn story and escape would be an interesting thing to see. I don’t even know what to think of him personally or as a businessman but the story is interesting.

    I’m pretty sure he’s the guy we have to thank for the Nissan/Infiniti CVT debauchery – I don’t particularly know or care why he was originally arrested in Japan, or what’s up with France and the alleged tax evasion, but I do think a just punishment for that CVT crime alone would be sticking him in an extremely remote desert with only Nissan made during his tenure, with one of his cursed CVTs on the brink of failure (aren’t they all on the brink?) and letting nature sort out the particulars.

    I always thought the Japanese were angry because Ghosn was making things too “French” at Nissan.

    Unfortunate 4th quarter for this guy. I’ve always admired him and his success bailing out Renault, and Nissan even more so. I’d guess his misgivings probably lie somewhere between what his detractors claim and of what he’s actually guilty. Sadly, historically, he’ll never get as much credit as he should for what he accomplished in the automobile business.

    Before judging Ghosn or his actions, read “Collison Course” by Hans Greimel and William Sposato or “Broken Alliances” by Carlos Ghosn and Philippe Ries. Understanding how Japanese imprisonment works (somethingnot disputed) one could understand why someone would want to escape. Check out how Greg Kelly (also charged) was tricked into coming into Japan only to be imprisoned and prevented from getting scheduled surgery in the US. Ghosn presents interesting comments about management in “his” book. He had also written other books (and was the subject of other books) prior to the Nissan issue.

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