Nissan CEO Saikawa To Step Down After Scandal Only After Successor Is Found

Nissan CEO Saikawa To Step Down After Scandal Only After Successor Is Found
Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa leaves after attending a news conference to release first quarter earnings at the company headquarters in Yokohama, Japan July 25, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Issei Kato)

Being at the center of a turmoil over excess payment at Nissan, Chief Executive Officer Hiroto Saikawa said he won't resign for taking excess pay but is going to take responsibility for his involvement in former boss Chairman Carlos Ghosn's scandals and is willing to resign over this once a successor is found.

Ghosn was at the helm of Nissan for two decades.

Saikawa was known as Ghosn's protege who went on publicly to denounce his former boss' behavior upon his arrest on November 19, 2018, stating his "indignation" and "despair" over Ghosn's conduct.

The former Nissan chairman is out on bail and is to face trial in Tokyo on 2020 over charges of failing to disclose his compensation from Nissan, redirecting company money into his own accounts and passing on trading losses to the company.

Since Ghosn's shocking arrest, Saikawa had been putting everything together after decade-low profits, job cuts and is struggling with the global auto industry's attempt to shift to autonomous driving and electrification including coping with a global decline in car sales.

Reports last week that he and other Nissan executives got payments more than they're entitled to, Saikawa, 65, told reporters, that he's "not responsible for that" referring to the stock-lined inflated bonuses in 2013.

The Japanese automaker is now considering abolishing this 2003 payment system which serves as an incentive for managers.

Saikawa wants the board's nomination committee to find a succession plan "in order to pass the baton."

Nissan's biggest investor and partner with a 43% stake in the company, Renault SA, supports Saikawa's request.

He offered to return the money but since this "concerns more than 40 million yen, this a problem of governance" says Koji Endo, an analyst at SBI Securities Co. in Tokyo.

The Saikawa Nissan scandal puts the Nissan Renault alliance dangerously on edge even more after Nissan opposed a proposed merger with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV.

Saikawa was quoted saying that "while keeping Nissan's independence," he is the leader "most open" to the world's largest auto alliance and wants to make sure Nissan's merger with Renault remains secure.

Since Ghosn's downfall, the two companies had been working out their differences.

However, the forthcoming latest changes in Nissan's top management isn't boding anything good.

Saikawa leaving might do something about the 30% decrease in stocks that investors put on Nissan's profits.

There are talks that Nissan Chief Operating Officer Yasuhiro Yamauchi might become interim CEO.

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