Nissan Motor Co shareholders yesterday vented their outrage at the Japanese automaker’s top management for crashing stock prices, zero dividends and quarterly losses after the scandal-ridden departure of former chairman Carlos Ghosn.
They got up, one by one, at an extraordinary shareholders’ meeting, demanding that Nissan quickly fix diving vehicle sales, work harder to repair its battered brand and have executives give up their pay.
Ghosn, a superstar executive who had led Nissan for two decades, was arrested in November 2018. He was awaiting trial on financial misconduct charges in Tokyo when he skipped bail late last year and escaped to Lebanon.
New chief executive Makoto Uchida apologized to shareholders for having “allowed the misconduct” of Ghosn, and promised better governance, transparency and financial results, but pleaded for more time.
He said a turnaround plan would be announced in May, which one shareholder immediately criticized as too late.
“We are in a disastrous situation,” Uchida said of the Ghosn scandal. “It was shocking, and I denounce it.”
Uchida is among the four directors whose election was up for vote at the meeting held at a conference center in Yokohama, near Tokyo.
Uchida was tapped in December last year to replace Hiroto Saikawa, who was Ghosn’s successor and who tendered his resignation after allegations surfaced about his own dubious personal income.
His resignation became final at the end of the meeting.
One shareholder asked if Saikawa was giving up his retirement pay.
Another asked why Jean-Dominique Senard, chairman of French alliance partner Renault SA and a Nissan board member, was seen leaving a previous shareholders’ meeting in a Toyota.
While Saikawa did not reply, Senard apologized and said it was a mistake that had upset him as well.
Also up for approval at the meeting was the appointment of Nissan chief operating officer Ashwanti Gupta, who joined Renault in India in 2006, and has since worked for the alliance, and the appointments of Nissan’s production expert Hideyuki Sakamoto and Pierre Fleuriot, a risk management specialist and independent director at Renault.
The appointments were welcomed by clapping at the end of the two-and-a-half hour meeting.
However, hanging over the entire meeting was Nissan’s plummeting fortunes, its reputation tarnished over not only the Ghosn scandal, but the shaky way it was handled at the company.
Shareholders said they saw confusion in management.
Global sales of Nissan vehicles have plunged. Nissan recorded red ink for the quarter through December last year.
One said no one would want to buy a vehicle from a company that looked as disorganized as Nissan.
At one point, several shareholders began shouting at each other.
Uchida repeatedly tried to assure shareholders that Nissan was standing up to wrongdoing, leveraging the Renault alliance and working on new products.
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