TOKYO — How much was uber-executive Carlos Ghosn worth to Nissan Motor Co.?
Was it $80 million. Maybe $90 million? Possibly more than $100 million? And was just one of his ideas worth a cool $50 million?
Those are apparently some of the numbers thrown around as his lieutenants finagled his compensation package, right up until the day of Ghosn's November 2018 arrest.
They are eye-watering sums, by any measure. Perhaps even more so, considering Nissan weighed paying it to Ghosn after he retired, supposedly for work done in his golden years.
The question of Ghosn's worth is central to the charges against Nissan's now-deposed chairman and to the ongoing trial of his co-defendant, the automaker's former American director Greg Kelly. Kelly's defense rests partly on the idea that it was in Nissan's best interests to pay Ghosn big bucks even in retirement.
For judges in the Tokyo District Court, where Kelly's trial is entering its final stage, the question is whether the supersized compensation was truly meant to retain Ghosn after retirement or was instead just a pretense to compensate Ghosn for the pay cut he took in his last eight years at the helm.
If the payout was truly agreed to after retirement and paid in retirement for work done in retirement, then there would be no obligation to disclose it — and the criminal charges would be moot.
Prosecutors allege Ghosn, 67, and Kelly, 64, hid some $85 million in postponed compensation from 2010 to 2018. Both men, arrested the same day in 2018, deny any wrongdoing.