Nissan executives took steps to have former Chairman Carlos Ghosn jailed in the hopes the arrest would stall or kill any attempts to merge the Japanese automaker with its French counterpart Renault, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter.
Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa, who had in the past been close with Ghosn, said at a Jan. 31 meeting that he believed Nissan executives had gone digging for evidence and presented their findings to Japanese authorities with the purpose of removing Ghosn from power, the paper reported. Ghosn had reportedly been trying to merge the two automakers, who had formed an alliance in 1999.
Theories that Nissan executives might have had a role in Ghosn's arrest have abounded in the automotive world. Ghosn had become something of a national hero in Japan for his role in helping to turn around Nissan, but many who follow the industry say the Japanese would have balked at the idea of a foreign automaker such as Renault owning such an important company in Japan.
Ghosn spent more than 100 days in jail in Japan for an array of alleged financial misdeeds before he was released on bail. He has been stripped of his roles at the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance, which he had formerly chaired. If found guilty he could face up to 15 years in prison. He has denied the accusations.
Nissan was not immediately available for comment to CNBC, but company spokesman Nicholas Maxfield told the Journal that the motives of company executives is not relevant, and that Nissan found "substantial evidence of blatantly unethical conduct. The sole cause of this chain of events is the misconduct led by Ghosn."