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Embattled Nissan C.E.O. Hiroto Saikawa to Resign, Carmaker Says


YOKOHAMA, Japan — The embattled chief executive of Nissan, Hiroto Saikawa, will resign, the company said Monday, following months of speculation about his ability to manage the Japanese carmaker since it was rocked by the arrest last year of its former chairman, Carlos Ghosn.

Mr. Saikawa’s resignation takes effect Sept. 16, and the company is considering a list of 10 candidates for his successor, said Masakazu Toyoda, who leads the company’s nomination committee. A decision is expected by the end of October.

Nissan’s chief operating officer, Yasuhiro Yamauchi, will serve as interim C.E.O., Mr. Toyoda said.

Mr. Saikawa “had indicated recently his willingness to resign,” the company said in a statement.

Following the company’s news conference, Mr. Saikawa stepped forward and faced the room full of reporters alone. He apologized for leaving the company before he could fulfill his promise of putting the company back on track.

News of his departure came after Nissan’s board received a briefing on the results of a nearly year-long investigation into the company’s governance. The inquiry was a prompted after Japanese prosecutors charged Mr. Ghosn with financial misconduct, including underreporting his compensation by tens of millions of dollars. He denies any wrongdoing.

Nissan also faces charges in relation to Mr. Ghosn’s compensation and it has attempted internal governance reforms.

In the months since Mr. Ghosn’s arrest in November, Nissan’s internal inquiry had grown to include many other aspects of the company’s business, including the compensation of Mr. Saikawa and other top executives.

Speculation that Mr. Saikawa — a once-loyal deputy to Mr. Ghosn who has been withering in his criticism since the arrest — would resign had grown since Thursday, when he announced that he and other executives had received unearned compensation as a result of what he described as an error by the company.

The admission was blow to Mr. Saikawa. Nissan, a partner in a global carmaking alliance with Renault and Mitsubishi, has suffered with dismal performance and a crisis of confidence over the past year, and Mr. Saikawa has been struggling to put the company back on track.

Mr. Saikawa had long been fighting an uphill battle: The company’s profits dropped 94 percent in the last quarter, its alliance with Renault is coming apart at the seams, and many Nissan employees have lost faith in Mr. Saikawa’s ability to lead the company out of its most difficult crisis in years.

Renault had no immediate response to Nissan’s news.

Whether Mr. Saikawa’s resignation opens the way for a new era between Renault and Nissan remains to be seen. Relations have been fraught since Mr. Ghosn’s arrest, and tensions over the future of the alliance flared regularly, despite efforts by Renault’s chief executive, Jean-Dominique Senard, to cultivate a personal relationship with Mr. Saikawa, with whom he spoke by telephone nearly every day.

A top issue facing Mr. Saikawa’s successor will be how to strengthen the alliance as the global auto industry rapidly consolidates, with giants like BMW and Daimler cooperating on crucial innovations like autonomous driving technology. Analysts say that only by combining forces can Nissan and Renault afford the huge technology investments necessary to avoid obsolescence.

Renault and Nissan have acknowledged they still need one another to survive and thrive. But Mr. Senard told Renault shareholders recently that “a tense climate” reigned between his company and Nissan.


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