By Gilles Guillaume
PARIS (Reuters) – Renault’s <RENA.PA> board voted on Friday to oust chief executive Thierry Bollore, as the French carmaker and Japanese partner Nissan <7201.T> seek a fresh start following the scandal-hit tenure of former alliance supremo Carlos Ghosn.
Relations between Renault, which named its finance director as temporary CEO, and Nissan, which picked a new CEO on Tuesday, have been strained since Ghosn’s arrest in Tokyo last year on allegations of financial misconduct, which he denies.
Bollore, who had long been Ghosn’s right-hand man, was promoted to help steady Renault this year, with Jean-Dominique Senard hired from Michelin as chairman.
But Bollore had had an uneasy relationship with Nissan, according to sources familiar with the matter, and Renault and the French state, its key shareholder, have repeatedly emphasised their wish to repair ties and reinforce the alliance.
Tensions between the partners were further inflamed this year, including during various spats over governance reforms, and after a failed deal under Senard’s watch to pair Renault up with Fiat Chrysler <FCHA.MI>, which withdrew a merger offer.
Renault said on Friday that financial director Clotilde Delbos would take over Bollore’s job on an interim basis.
“The board of directors decided to end the mandate of Mr Thierry Bollore as Chief Executive Officer of Renault … with immediate effect,” the company said in a statement.
Renault shares were up 4.2% at 1030 GMT.
‘COUP DE FORCE’
Bollore denounced his looming exit as a “coup” in a newspaper interview on Thursday evening, after news that Senard was poised to trigger his departure had emerged in the French press on Tuesday.
“The brutality and the totally unexpected character of what is happening are stupefying … This coup de force is very worrying,” Bollore told Les Echos.
Renault also named two deputies to back up Delbos: top sales executive Olivier Murguet and a senior manufacturing and supply chain chief, Jose-Vicente de los Mozos.
The triumvirate has echoes of the new top team announced on Tuesday by Nissan.
Nissan picked Makoto Uchida, previously the head of its Chinese business, to replace Hiroto Saikawa, who stepped down as CEO in September after he admitted to being improperly overpaid.
Uchida is known for close ties to Renault, which could help ease tensions in the alliance.
Saikawa and Bollore barely spoke and were seen as clear irritants to the relationship between Nissan and Renault, French official and company sources told Reuters in June.
Before his ouster, Ghosn had been working on a plan for a full merger of Renault and Nissan, but had met resistance in Japan, which is concerned about French government influence in the alliance.
The French government, which holds a 15% stake in Renault, expressed its support for Senard on Thursday after Bollore hit out at the company, saying it trusted the chairman to submit the “necessary decisions” to the board.
(Reporting by Gilles Guillaume, Writing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Sarah White; Editing by Keith Weir and Mark Potter)