Renault to play safe with French replacements for Ghosn

Paris (AFP) –


Carlos Ghosn's momentous years at the helm of Renault are expected to come to an end this Thursday, with the French group set to announce tried-and-tested executives with experience in the car industry to replace him.

Ghosn held both the CEO and chairman roles, as well as leading the powerful Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance, when he was arrested in Japan in November and accused of financial misconduct.

Renault is expected to choose two big-hitters from the French car industry, Thierry Bollore and Jean-Dominique Senard, to take over the CEO and chairman jobs, according to a source who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity.

Ghosn has already been stripped of his responsibilities at Nissan and Mitsubishi.

- Bollore: Old Asia hand -

Thierry Bollore, who is expected to be named Renault CEO, was asked to run the company on an interim basis in the wake of Ghosn's stunning arrest.

The 55-year-old was the obvious choice having been seen as Ghosn's annointed successor since last February when he was named chief operating officer.

Hailing from Brittany in northwest France, the discrete father of five has spent his whole career in the car industry, mostly in Asia.

Like Ghosn, he got his start at French tyre giant Michelin.

"Very rigorous, very dedicated -- but at the same time very warm," said one industry insider who worked alongside Bollore at French parts maker Faurecia.

"I think that his knowledge of Asia and his skills in relationships with the Japanese will give him an advantage," the former colleague said, praising Bollore's "calm, analytical qualities".

Business development in China is a major priority for Renault as well as the complex coalition with the French company's Japanese partners Nissan and Mitsubishi.

Bollore held senior posts with Michelin in Japan and Thailand in the late 1990s before moving to China with Faurecia.

He took other senior roles with the parts maker in Europe and South Africa before joining Renault in 2012 to take charge of manufacturing and supply chain management.

A keen sailor, he has been viewed at Renault as someone who upped the competitiveness of the company's factories as well as embracing digital transformation.

- Senard: Michelin man turned chairman -

Jean-Dominique Senard, who is set to be named as the new chairman, will give a whole new meaning to the expression "when the rubber hits the road": he arrives at Renault fresh from his role as CEO of Michelin.

The 66-year-old has worked for the world's second-largest tyre manufacturer since 2005 and had been due to hand over the top job to his deputy Florent Menegaux in May.

He was the first non-family member to head the historic company that spawned the Michelin food guide.

With a ready smile and elegant attire, Senard has successfully negotiated sensitive labour agreements with trade union leaders in Michelin's French factories to preserve jobs in the face of cheaper imported Asian products.

The group earned high praise at the end of January from French President Emmanuel Macron who called it a "model company" for its concern for both productivity, training and involving workers in corporate decisions.

A graduate of the top HEC business school in Paris, Senard is the son of an aristocratic mother and diplomat father.

Before working for Michelin, he held jobs at energy giant Total along with Saint-Gobain and Pechiney, two chemical companies.