TOKYO — If new Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida didn't have enough headaches facing him in 2020, he probably didn't count on one new migraine in the making: Carlos Ghosn has gone rogue.
The indicted former Nissan chairman last week stunned the world by jumping bail in Japan and spiriting himself to his ancestral homeland of Lebanon, beyond the clutches of the Japanese justice system.
Why is that a potential headache for the new CEO of Nissan Motor Co.?
Because Ghosn is now free to go on the messaging offensive, broadcasting his allegations about a corporate conspiracy to arrest him last year and keep him jailed and silent about what was happening to the automaker.
Now in Beirut, Ghosn is free to tell his tale without the threat of Tokyo police rearresting him and putting him back in jail. Moreover, by slipping out of Japan, Ghosn has halted his pending criminal trial — which would have been the opportunity for Nissan and Japanese prosecutors to broadcast their own spin on the Ghosn era.
Shortly after he arrived in Lebanon last week, Ghosn said in a statement issued by his representatives that he would start talking to the media this week. The campaign may even kick off with a press conference in Beirut. Ghosn twice attempted to hold a press conference in Tokyo to air dirty laundry about Nissan and Japanese justice, but he was stymied.
Ghosn is likely to target Nissan executives whom he claims turned on him, to lambaste the carmaker's flailing sales and profit performance since he gave up his CEO title in 2017 and to target what he claims is a rigged Japanese criminal justice system.
He offered a preview in his first public statement after bolting Japan.
"I am now in Lebanon and will no longer be held hostage by a rigged Japanese justice system where guilt is presumed, discrimination is rampant and basic human rights are denied, in flagrant disregard of Japan's legal obligations under international law and treaties it is bound to uphold," Ghosn said. "I have not fled justice — I have escaped injustice and political persecution."
Having Ghosn on the loose promises more embarrassment and distraction for Uchida, who took office Dec. 1 with a daunting to-do list. The former purchasing executive who now runs Japan's No. 2 carmaker must battle slumping profits, an aging product portfolio and soured relations with its alliance teammate Renault.
Capping Nissan's bad year, a California dealer group filed suit last month against Nissan and two subsidiaries, alleging that "a culture of corporate corruption and greed" at the carmaker forced the plaintiffs into a "fire sale" of two of its popular dealerships to "cronies" of Ghosn.