Nissan shares in Asia had already ceased trading on Monday when the news broke, but Renault shares — with Ghosn also being the CEO and chair of the French automaker — hit their lowest level in three years. Renault's stock was more than 13 percent lower shortly before 12:00 p.m. Paris time.
An alliance between Renault, Nissan, and Mitsubishi has been built up over the last two decades. Nissan and the French government each own 15 percent of Renault. In turn, the French auto firm holds a 43 percent stake in Nissan. In a statement Monday, the French President Emmanuel Macron said he would be extremely vigilant over the stability of the alliance between the two companies.
A brief reaction note from analysts at Citi Research on Monday said the volatile share price reaction showed how pivotal Ghosn is for any potential collapse of the Renault-Nissan structure. Citi added that while Renault's stock trades at about a 50 percent discount to its 10-year average, this discount would likely rise should Ghosn depart as he is "viewed as the chief architect of any solution."
Ghosn is considered a hugely influential executive within the global automotive industry. The cross-ownership alliance of Renault, Nissan, and Mitsubishi have all enjoyed an upswing in fortunes under his leadership. After successfully restructuring Renault in the late 1990s, Ghosn earned the nickname "Le Cost Killer."
Born in Brazil, Ghosn became the world's first person to run two companies on the Fortune Global 500 simultaneously when he assumed the CEO roles at both Renault and Nissan in 2005. He stepped down as Nissan CEO in 2017.
In June this year, Renault shareholders voted by a slim majority to approve a 7.4 million euro ($8.4 million) pay package for Ghosn's work in fiscal 2017. According to other securities filings, Ghosn earned 735 million Japanese yen ($6.52 million) from Nissan and 227 million yen from Mitsubishi for the same period.