Yoshikazu Hanawa sat expressionless in the Royal Park Hotel's grand ballroom in Tokyo last month as Carlos Ghosn read a long list of errors committed by Nissan management.
In front of the world's media, Ghosn looked and sounded like a zealous prosecutor while Hanawa watched from the dock.
Everyone in the room tried to read the accused man's mind. Hanawa has been Nissan's president since 1996. Now he listened to the Renault interloper outline a 'revival plan.'
During a question-and-answer session, Hanawa mostly deferred to his 'subordinate.' If there is no greater torment in Japanese culture than loss of face, then Hanawa must have been in excruciating pain.
Hanawa paled next to the astonishing Mr. Ghosn, whose performance that day is how we will remember the 1999 Tokyo auto show.
A few days later, in Paris, I asked Renault Chairman Louis Schweitzer whether he could have done the big deal without Ghosn. His answer was a blunt no. Nissan's new COO is so direct and persuasive, he can do more with less. Renault dispatched only 17 executives to Japan to fix Nissan.
'You either send a great flock of people or a very limited number of high quality,' Schweitzer said. 'Sending hordes is not an adequate way to address the problem. You need a very few people who can carry others with them. Carlos is very good at that.'
At the Royal Park, Ghosn exuded energy and self-confidence. Hanawa appeared shamed and ready to quit. But the picture was misleading. His Renault counterparts say Hanawa will stay and fight. If Ghosn's revival plan succeeds, it will be a great personal triumph for the Nissan president. He will save face by saving an entire company.
Hanawa is responsible for the October revolution in Tokyo. He had the courage to force change on the most Japanese of auto companies. Eighteen months ago, he made the agonizing decision to get help - no matter what the cost to Nissan's pride.
Of course, the third man with a personal stake in all of this is Schweitzer himself. There is extraordinary pressure on him, though you would never know it. Renault's philosopher-king makes running a car company look easy.
Schweitzer is a gentle prodder. His willingness to let Ghosn take so much credit is a great lesson in how to get things done. Schweit-zer won't even take credit for hiring Ghosn from Michelin.
'I went through a headhunter,' he said, shrugging his shoulders. 'I had never heard of him before.'
But Schweitzer knew what he wanted and didn't hesitate to empower Ghosn. He also recognized that Hanawa was a man with whom he could do business. While pushing others into the limelight, Schweitzer keeps making the right choices.