Nissan to discuss Saikawa successors at meeting on Monday: source

FILE PHOTO: Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa attends a news conference in Yokohama
FILE PHOTO: Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa attends a news conference to release first quarter earnings at the company headquarters in Yokohama, Japan July 25, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo

September 9, 2019

By Maki Shiraki and Laurence Frost

TOKYO/PARIS (Reuters) – Nissan Motor Co’s <7201.T> nominating committee will discuss potential successors for Chief Executive Hiroto Saikawa at a meeting on Monday, after he privately signaled his readiness to resign, a source with knowledge of the matter said.

The resignation of Saikawa, a protege of former chairman Carlos Ghosn, would mark the latest upheaval over governance at the troubled Japanese automaker. The company has struggled to right itself following Ghosn’s dramatic arrest and subsequent ouster last year.

It was swept up again in crisis when Saikawa last week admitted to being improperly overpaid and in violation of internal procedures. That admission followed an internal investigation.

Nissan’s board is scheduled to meet on Monday. The company, and its relationship with top shareholder Renault SA <RENA.PA>, has been damaged following Ghosn’s arrest for alleged financial misconduct in November and subsequent departure.

“The nominating committee will also meet today and discuss the selection of successor and the timing of the resignation,” the source said, requesting anonymity because the information has not been made public.

“Saikawa isn’t at all clinging to his president’s chair.”

The timing of Saikawa’s resignation was not immediately clear. He has told some executives of his intention to resign, the source said.

The chief executive earlier told reporters that he wanted to “pass the baton” to the next generation as soon as possible, the Nikkei newspaper reported.

Nissan was not immediately available to comment.

Pressure has mounted on Saikawa given the company’s poor performance and strained ties with Renault. Profit has tumbled to an 11-year low and prompted hefty job cuts.

An alliance source told Reuters that a nominations committee established in June to find a successor to Saikawa had drawn up a shortlist containing more than 10 possible candidates.

Names included Jun Seki, who is overseeing the company’s performance recovery, Chief Competitive Officer Yasuhiro Yamauchi, and Makoto Uchida, chairman of Nissan’s management committee in China, one of its largest markets, said the alliance source, who also spoke on condition of anonymity.

The search and vetting process would likely take about six months as the committee considered both Japanese and non-Japanese candidates for the role, a third person with knowledge of the issue has previously told Reuters.

(Additional reporting by Chang-Ran Kim and Naomi Tajitsu in TOKYO; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Ros Russell and Stephen Coates)

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