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Saturday, July 22, 2006
Ghosn denies yearning to merge with, rule over GM
Nissan Motor Co. President Carlos Ghosn denied speculation Friday that he intends to become General Motors Corp.'s chief executive officer but did not rule out the possibility of joining its board of directors if and when Nissan, GM and Renault agree to form an alliance.
"I am not a candidate to become anything else than the CEO of Nissan and CEO of Renault," Ghosn said at a news conference at Nissan headquarters in Tokyo.
There is speculation, especially within GM, that Ghosn's ultimate goal is to take over the ailing automaker, a company that once symbolized U.S. industrial might.
If true, then Ghosn's remark was apparently aimed at mollifying GM's ranks.
"If one of the conditions to make sure (the synergy of a possible alliance will happen) means some kind of participation on my part, I will be glad to do it," he said, expressing eagerness to take part in decision-making at GM.
It was the first time Ghosn has spoken to the press about a possible GM-Renault-Nissan alliance since he spoke with GM Chairman Rick Wagoner last week in Detroit.
He stressed that Nissan and Renault are seeking an alliance, not a merger.
"Each company will keep its own executive committee, board of directors, its own shares, its own brand and its own identity," said Ghosn. "We have never considered anything (other) than maintaining (GM's) own autonomy."
Senior executives of the three companies, who Ghosn described as "corporate officers or close" to that status, have formed teams to study the benefit of teaming up.
But Ghosn declined to give further details because he and Wagoner agreed not make public comments about the subject so their teams can study it "without distraction."
On July 14, Wagoner and Ghosn agreed to review the potential benefits of the three-way alliance over the next 90 days. The companies will then consider whether further exploration is warranted, the three sides said in a joint statement.
Ghosn emphasized that the 90-day phase is for exploring synergies that could be created by the alliance, not capital investment and organization. Those topics will be discussed if the three agree to proceed to the next step, he said.
"Anything that will strengthen the relationship between different car manufacturers, as long as there is a strategy behind it, (is) welcome," Ghosn said.
Despite stating that he will not proceed if the ongoing discussion reveals joining forces is too risky for Nissan and Renault, Ghosn appeared eager to do a deal.
"If I did not think that there are a lot of opportunities, why would I put people to work on it?" he asked. "It's because I think the opportunities can be big and that I'm willing to give it a try."
Ghosn also brushed aside criticism that he is abusing his authority as CEO and that he thought up the whole idea.