YOKOHAMA, Japan — Nissan advisers are blasting the automaker's lax corporate governance for letting ousted Chairman Carlos Ghosn run the company like an emperor, bestowing himself with dubious pay and perks while being "deified" by subordinates too afraid to object.
That scathing assessment, released in a report last week by a committee hired by Nissan in the wake of Ghosn's shocking arrest in November, will form the basis of sweeping reforms that Nissan wants to implement by June to decentralize control at the company and improve its oversight.
The report offered a point-by-point takedown of the ex-chairman, claiming that Ghosn lacked "ethics as a manager" and that the "root cause of the misconduct was the concentration of all authority in Mr. Ghosn."
But even as the committee recommended reforms, echoes of Ghosn's all-powerful sway at the company continued to reverberate globally last week.
A news report said that Nissan's alliance partner Renault remains interested in pushing through a full merger with Nissan — a touchy issue that Ghosn championed at the end of his tenure there, and one that may have caused merger-averse Nissan executives to ally against him last year.
The news report, from the Financial Times of London, claimed that Renault is also interested in reaching beyond its alliance with Nissan and Mitsubishi to take on larger acquisitions, possibly including Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
That unconfirmed assertion also echoes Ghosn's power plays of the past. While CEO of Nissan in 2006, Ghosn publicly argued for bringing a U.S. automaker into the Renault-Nissan alliance, at one point holding unproductive discussions with a financially distressed General Motors. Rebuffed by GM, Ghosn insisted at the time that a tie-up with a U.S. automaker would continue to make sense for Nissan and Renault.
The Financial Times cited several unidentified people it said were familiar with the French carmaker's plans who claimed Renault could resume Ghosn's merger push within the next 12 months.
Reached for comment at his home last week, Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa, long resistant to a full merger with Renault, responded to the report by saying that a Renault-Nissan merger "is not a subject now. … It's not today's topic."
As for making a play for FCA, Saikawa said that the newspaper report was the first he'd heard of the idea.