(Bloomberg) -- Renault SA is poised to oust Chief Executive Officer Thierry Bollore just days after partner Nissan Motor Co. chose a new CEO, a sign the carmakers are working in sync to move past the Carlos Ghosn era and repair their troubled alliance.
Renault’s board is expected to name Chief Financial Officer Clotilde Delbos, 52, interim CEO at a meeting Friday, said a person familiar with the matter, asking not to be identified discussing confidential information. Bollore, who faces a board vote, served as Ghosn’s No. 2 before taking the helm in January.
Ghosn headed Renault and Nissan for years and held their two-decade partnership together until his arrest last November in Japan on charges of financial misconduct, which he has denied. His downfall exposed poor corporate governance at Nissan and brought long-simmering tensions between the automakers to a boil.
Resolving their differences is a priority for Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard and would be a prerequisite to reviving merger discussions with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, scrapped earlier this year after Nissan failed to back a deal.
Bollore, 56, denounced the move to oust him and defended his record in an interview with Les Echos published on Thursday. He said he found out through the press that Senard wanted him to leave and called on the French state, as a shareholder, not to destabilize Renault.
“The brutality and totally unexpected nature of what’s taking place are astonishing,” Bollore told the newspaper. “On an operational level, I don’t see where the fault lies.”
Bollore has had tense relations with Senard and has been viewed negatively by Nissan and the French government as a holdover from the Ghosn era, Bloomberg and other media have reported. The French state holds a 15% stake in Renault.
Comments from French officials laid the groundwork for a change atop Renault. Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Wednesday that he has full confidence in Senard and the board to choose “the best governance” to carry out the company’s strategy. One of his deputies, Agnes Pannier-Runacher, said the state wants Senard to have a trusted team around him.
Renault said the board would convene Friday to discuss corporate governance, and would communicate after the meeting.
Possible contenders are already emerging to replace Bollore permanently, and at least one recruiting firm was identified to carry out a search, two people with knowledge of the matter said.
Delbos will be a candidate for the top job, said one of the people. In addition, Renault’s former chief operating officer, Patrick Pelata, who left his position after an espionage scandal but kept an advisory role at the Renault-Nissan alliance until last year, said he would be ready to help Renault temporarily “if this allows a faster or more serene transition” to a new management team.
Following Ghosn’s arrest in November 2018, outsiders cited possible replacements including Carlos Tavares, a former Renault executive who is now CEO of rival automaker PSA Group, and Airbus SE’s former head of commercial aircraft, Fabrice Bregier, as well as Didier Leroy, a senior executive at Toyota Motor Corp.
“I’m not a candidate and I wasn’t contacted,” Leroy said by phone. “I’m very happy at Toyota and I have the trust of Akio Toyoda.” Toyoda is the president of Toyota Motor Corp.
The French government has been pushing Renault and Nissan for months to repair their broken relationship and strengthen their three-way alliance with Mitsubishi Motors Corp.
Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa resigned in September following a scandal over pay, and this week the carmaker tapped Makoto Uchida, 53, the head of its China joint venture, as CEO, to work alongside new Chief Operating Officer Ashwani Gupta.
--With assistance from James Regan.
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