Carlos Ghosn wanted to oust Nissan's CEO before arrest in Tokyo: Report

Former Nissan Motor Chairman Carlos Ghosn – prior to his arrest last month in Tokyo – planned to replace the automaker’s CEO, Hiroto Saikawa, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people with knowledge of the matter.

The company had been investigating possible financial misconduct by Ghosn, who was ousted Nov. 22, and Nissan Representative Director Greg Kelly this year, and supplied the information to prosecutors in Tokyo.

“The investigation showed that over many years both Ghosn and Kelly have been reporting compensation amounts in the Tokyo Stock Exchange securities report that were less than the actual amount, in order to reduce the disclosed amount of Carlos Ghosn's compensation,” the company said in a statement on Nov. 19.

As the investigation progressed, Ghosn had grown weary of Saikawa’s performance, including how he handled poor sales in the U.S. and quality issues in the company’s home market of Japan, according to the Journal, which cited people familiar with the matter. Nissan reported a 19 percent decline in U.S. sales in November versus the year prior.

People familiar with the plan told the Journal that Ghosn “expressed a desire for months” to shake up senior management at Nissan, and that the former chairman wanted the Nissan board to vote on Saikawa’s ouster in late November. However, the automaker’s board instead voted to oust Ghosn as chairman after hearing the final information from the company’s internal investigation.

Ghosn was arrested at an airport in Tokyo last month after allegedly underreporting his salary for the fiscal years up through March 2015, though he has denied the accusations, according to Japanese public broadcaster NHK, and has not been charged with a crime.

The former chairman had been renowned in the auto industry for helping turn Nissan around while it was on the brink of bankruptcy. Ghosn was also ousted from the board of Mitsubishi Motors following his arrest, though he remains chairman and CEO of French automaker Renault.