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Renault seeking 'solution' for group's future governance

French automaker Renault SA said Jan. 17 that its governing bodies are working to find a solution for the group's leadership, nearly two months after its CEO and chairman, Carlos Ghosn, was arrested in Japan and a day after the French government, one of the company's most influential shareholders, indicated that the time has come to replace him.

"Philippe Lagayette, Lead Independent Director, and Patrick Thomas, Chair of the Appointment and Governance Committee confirm that the governing bodies of Renault are actively working to find the best solution for the future governance of the group, with a view to preserving the company's interests and strengthening the Renault Nissan Alliance," Renault said in a statement.

"The Board of Directors will take the required decisions on this matter as soon as the necessary elements are available."

The declaration makes Ghosn's ouster from Renault look all but a question of time after judges on Jan. 15 turned down his request for bail, meaning that his incarceration is likely to last for many more months.

Renault has stood by Ghosn since his Nov. 19, 2018, arrest over allegations of financial misconduct at Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., where he was also chairman. Nissan's board ousted Ghosn before charges were subsequently filed against him and Nissan itself, but Renault said it would presume Ghosn's innocence until it saw evidence to the contrary.

However, French Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Ghosn should be replaced and called for a board meeting to determine his successor, the Nikkei Asian Review reported Jan. 17. The French government holds a 15% stake in Renault.

Ghosn personally denied all the charges in a brief courtroom appearance in Tokyo on Jan. 8.

French media reports have speculated that COO Thierry Bollore, who is performing Ghosn's executive duties on an interim basis, will likely become CEO, while tire manufacturer Compagnie Générale des Établissements Michelin's CEO Jean-Dominique Senard could become chairman. News reports from France have suggested Renault's board could meet Jan. 20 to discuss Ghosn's succession.

A Renault spokesperson told S&P Global Market Intelligence that they were not aware of the scheduling of an extraordinary board meeting so far.

Ghosn was the chief architect in the cost-saving alliance between Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. that has saved the companies billions of dollars by joining forces on procurement, technology development and manufacturing. All three companies have repeatedly expressed their determination for the alliance to continue, and analysts believe its future looks secure as growing competition in the industry spawns similar tie-ups among rival manufacturers.