Economy, Auto

Renault Board’s Senior Member Quits

External candidates are not seen considered.External candidates are not seen considered.

Senior Renault board member Thierry Desmarest has resigned from the French carmaker days ahead of a meeting at which Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn is asking directors to back his chosen successor’s appointment.

Desmarest’s exit comes amid renewed tensions between Renault and the French government, which has been pressing Ghosn to recruit a second-in-command who could one day succeed him at the helm of the Renault-Nissan alliance, Reuters reported.

Former Total CEO Desmarest, whose mandate runs until 2020, told Renault early last week that he was stepping down early, people familiar with the matter said.

His exit closely follows that of chief performance officer Stefan Mueller, which cleared the way for Ghosn to propose his other deputy, Thierry Bollore, as chief operating officer and heir apparent.

A spokeswoman for the French oil giant, where Desmarest remains honorary chairman, declined to comment. The company did not respond to Reuters’ requests to speak to him directly.

A Renault spokesman said: “We do not comment on rumors and speculation.” A French government spokesman did not return calls seeking comment.

At least two directors - other than Desmarest - have raised concerns about the recruitment process and its outcome, sources told Reuters.

“External candidates were not so much as considered,” said a person with knowledge of the matter, even when profiles such as Toyota second-in-command Didier Leroy were put forward by recruitment firms.

Renault placed Bollore atop its shortlist at the start of the process and blocked attempts by the external advisers to bring Mueller, a German-born BMW veteran, into serious contention, the source said.

Ghosn, 63, had earlier been expected to hand over the reins to a new chief executive and move to a new role overseeing Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi’s three-way carmaking alliance.

But the plan foundered on differences with the French state over the alliance’s future shape and direction. 

Renault currently holds 43.4% of Nissan, which in turn controls Mitsubishi Motors via a 34% stake.

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