Nissan CEO ousted over pay scandal as turmoil at company deepens

Hiroto Saikawa’s resignation comes less than a year after former CEO’s arrest.
Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa steps down after investigation shows he was overpaid via stock appreciation rights, including tax adjustments. Image: Kiyoshi Ota, Bloomberg

Nissan Motor Chief Executive Officer Hiroto Saikawa will step down over a scandal involving inflated stock-linked bonuses, underscoring the ongoing turmoil at the Japanese automaker since the shock arrest of former Chairman Carlos Ghosn last year.

Saikawa, Ghosn’s handpicked successor as CEO, will resign as of September 16 and be replaced on an acting basis by Chief Operating Officer Yasuhiro Yamauchi. A new CEO will be named by the end of October, the automaker said in a late-night news conference in Yokohama, near Tokyo, on Monday.

Saikawa has been facing mounting pressure following reports last week that he and other executives were paid more than they were entitled to. That was the final blow to the exiting CEO, who has spent the period since Ghosn’s arrest last November on financial crimes trying to right the carmaker as it grapples with decade-low profits, job cuts and the destabilisation of losing a leader who loomed large over Nissan for two decades.

An internal investigation by the automaker found Saikawa had been overpaid by 90 million yen ($841 000) via stock appreciation rights, including tax adjustments. Under the plan, directors receive a bonus if the company’s share price performs better than a set target. Other executives also received excess pay.

Although Saikawa’s leadership has come under scrutiny since Ghosn’s arrest and the resulting fallout, he was reappointed as CEO by Nissan’s shareholders earlier this year. In June, Saikawa said he should be held responsible for the turmoil at the Japanese automaker since Ghosn’s downfall, and he wanted the company to accelerate the search for his replacement.

© 2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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