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Renault Fires Its C.E.O., as the Post-Ghosn Shake-Up Continues


Renault’s board on Friday fired its chief executive, Thierry Bolloré, just days after Nissan shook up its leadership, as the two automakers in a much-vaunted alliance struggled to regain their footing nearly a year after the ouster of their former chairman, Carlos Ghosn.

The French automaker named its chief financial officer, Clotilde Delbos, as the interim chief executive. Mr. Bolloré, a former executive who served under Mr. Ghosn, became chief executive after Mr. Ghosn’s arrest on charges of financial wrongdoing last year.

The board’s announcement said it “decided to end the mandate” of Mr. Bolloré “with immediate effect,” without elaborating.

Renault and Nissan are attempting to turn a page on the Ghosn era by shedding executives who have complicated efforts to reboot the world’s largest auto alliance since his arrest.

On Tuesday, Nissan appointed a new leader following the ouster of longtime chief executive Hiroto Saikawa, a protégé of Mr. Ghosn’s.

Friday’s surprise maneuver paves the way for Renault to look for a new chief to work closely with Nissan alongside Renault’s chairman, Jean-Dominique Senard, who took the helm of the French automaker in January.

Mr. Bolloré, 56, who joined Renault in 2012, said in a Thursday interview with the French financial newspaper Les Échos that he was the target of a “very disturbing coup” and that the only thing he had done wrong was to be promoted by Mr. Ghosn, who resigned under pressure from Renault in January. The French carmaker has also alerted prosecutors in France to investigate possible irregularities with the funding of Mr. Ghosn’s wedding party at Versailles in 2016.

New leadership at the head of both auto giants could open a new chapter in the partnership, which has been plagued by festering relations, governance problems, corporate intrigue and an increasingly flagging financial performance since Mr. Ghosn was toppled last November as head of the alliance, which also includes Mitsubishi Motors of Japan.

Nissan declined to comment on the changes at Renault.

Renault and Nissan need each other to thrive in the future, executives have insisted. Only by combining forces can they afford the large investments they need to make in autonomous driving and other technologies to avoid being outpaced by competitors. And Renault needs Nissan, the dominant performer in the alliance, to continue contributing to Renault financially as the French automaker’s performance slips in Europe.

The French state, which owns a 15 percent stake in Renault, has been eager to get the relationship with Nissan back on track and supported Mr. Senard’s decision to start looking for a replacement. France’s finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, said this week that he had full confidence in Mr. Senard “to choose with the board the best governance.”

Nissan in particular has been torn by internal probes that recently revealed improper payments to several top executives, including two of the insiders who brought down Mr. Ghosn. As part of those investigations, Mr. Saikawa resigned on Sept. 9 after admitting earlier that month that he received about $440,000 in improper share-based compensation.

Mr. Bolloré had earlier been hailed by Renault after being thrust abruptly into the role of chief executive in January, the same time Mr. Senard was hired from the French tiremaker Michelin to quickly fill the power vacuum left by Mr. Ghosn’s absence.

Yet executives have been concerned by Renault’s worsening finances. Revenues at the French automaker fell 6.4 percent in the first half from a year ago, while operating profit slumped 11.8 percent, prompting Renault to cut its sales targets for the full year.

n his interview with Les Échos, Mr. Bolloré said that the move was “all the more inexplicable because Renault is one of the very few car manufacturers that has not made a profit warning despite the sectoral crisis we are facing.”

Renault, which owns 43 percent of Nissan, can ill afford to see its performance slide further at a time when Nissan is also grappling with a sharp drop in profits amid plunging sales. Nissan recently announced plans to lay off as many as 12,500 employees worldwide.

That has also alarmed French unions, who have sought pledges from Renault and the French government to safeguard jobs. At least 22,000 jobs have been shed at Renault in France since 2005.

Ben Dooley contributed reporting.


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