March 13, 2019 / 4:46 PM / 4 months ago

Renault strips Ghosn loyalist of executive role

FILE PHOTO: Mouna Sepehri attends a news conference to unveil Renault's next mid-term strategic plan in Paris, France, October 6, 2017. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - Renault has sidelined a senior executive close to Carlos Ghosn, as the French carmaker and its Japanese affiliate Nissan continue to overhaul management in the wake of the financial scandal engulfing their former chairman.

General Secretary Mouna Sepehri will move to an advisory position and leave the executive committee, Renault said on Wednesday, as it announced broader top management changes.

Ghosn is facing trial in Japan for failing to disclose some $82 million in income he had arranged to be paid later, as well as transferring personal investment losses to Nissan when he was chief executive. He denies any wrongdoing.

Ghosn’s November arrest and dismissal as Nissan chairman, following an internal investigation, inflamed tensions with 43.4 percent-owner Renault that have begun to ease since his forced resignation from the French carmaker in January.

Product and program director Bruno Ancelin will leave Renault, the carmaker said in a statement announcing the appointment of his successor, Ali Kassai. Europe chief Jean-Christophe Kugler is also departing.

Sepehri’s move, first reported by Bloomberg, ends her oversight of corporate governance, communications, legal and public affairs at Renault, as well as her influential role as secretary to the board.

Sepehri was among a group of Ghosn loyalists who explored legal ways to pay him undisclosed income via the Dutch Renault-Nissan BV venture, and had herself received extra pay from the subsidiary, Reuters earlier revealed.

New Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard will head an alliance board to include the CEOs of Renault, Nissan and third alliance member Mitsubishi, the companies said this week, pledging a “new start” for their partnership.

Nissan also said Arun Bajaj, who served as alliance human resources chief, will exit the company. Mitsubishi announced that Chief Operating Officer Trevor Mann and Vincent Cobee, another manager picked by Ghosn, are to leave, with former alliance commercial vans chief Ashwani Gupta replacing Mann.

Reporting by Laurence Frost. Editing by Jane Merriman

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