KBE (pronounced [ɡɔn]; born March 9, 1954) is a
Brazilian-Lebanese-French businessman born in Porto Velho, Brazil,
who is currently the Chairman and CEO of France-based Renault,
Chairman and former CEO of Japan-based Nissan, and Chairman of
Mitsubishi Motors. From June 2013 to June 2016, Ghosn was Chairman of
Russia-based automobile manufacturer AvtoVAZ. Ghosn is also
Chairman and CEO of the Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance, the
strategic partnership overseeing Nissan, Mitsubishi and Renault
through a unique cross-shareholding agreement. The Alliance, which
includes AvtoVAZ, has held approximately 10% of the global market
share since 2010, and as of 2017 is the third largest automobile group
worldwide, having previously been the fourth largest automobile
group worldwide since 2010.
After his radical restructuring of
Renault that returned the company
to profitability in the late 1990s Ghosn became known as "Le Cost
Killer". In the early 2000s, for orchestrating one of the auto
industry's most aggressive downsizing campaigns and spearheading the
Nissan from its near bankruptcy in 1999, he earned the
nickname "Mr. Fix It".
Nissan financial turnaround, in 2002 Fortune awarded him
Asia Businessman of the Year. In 2003 Fortune identified him
as one of the 10 most powerful people in business outside the
U.S., and its Asian edition voted him Man of the Year. Surveys
jointly published by the
Financial Times and PricewaterhouseCoopers
named him the fourth most respected business leader in 2003, and
the third most respected business leader in 2004 and in
2005. He quickly achieved celebrity status in Japan and in
the business world, and his life has been chronicled in a
Japanese manga comic book. Ghosn has been asked to run at least
two other automakers,
General Motors and Ford. His decision to
spend €4 billion (more than $5 billion) so
Renault and Nissan
could jointly develop an entire lineup of electric cars including the
Nissan Leaf, billed as "the world's first affordable zero-emission
car", is one of the four subjects of the 2011 documentary
Revenge of the Electric Car.
Ghosn stepped down as CEO of
Nissan on April 1, 2017, while remaining
Chairman of the company.
1 Early life and education
Michelin to Renault
Nissan and the Renault-
3 Personal life
3.1 In the media
4 Awards and recognition
Early life and education
Ghosn's grandfather Bichara Ghosn emigrated from
the age of 13, eventually settling in remote Guaporé, Rondônia, near
the border between
Brazil and Bolivia. Bichara Ghosn was an
entrepreneur and eventually headed several companies, in fields
including the rubber trade, the sale and purchase of agricultural
products, and aviation. His son Jorge Ghosn married a
Nigerian-born woman whose family also came from Lebanon, and they
settled in Porto Velho, the state capital of Rondônia.
Carlos Ghosn was born on March 9, 1954 in Porto Velho.
When he was about two years old he became sick after drinking
unsanitary water, and his mother moved with him to Rio de Janeiro.
He did not fully recover there, and in 1960, when Ghosn was six years
old, he and his mother and sister moved to Beirut, Lebanon, where his
Ghosn completed his secondary school studies in Lebanon, at the Jesuit
school Collège Notre-Dame de Jamhour. He then completed his classes
préparatoires in Paris, at the Collège Stanislas and the Lycée
Saint-Louis. He graduated with university engineering degrees from
École Polytechnique in 1974 and the École des Mines de Paris in
Michelin to Renault
Carlos Ghosn answers reporters' questions at the
Nissan factory in
Kyushu, Japan. (September 2011)
After graduation in 1978, Ghosn spent 18 years at Michelin, Europe's
largest tire maker, initially training and working in several plants
France and Germany. In 1981, he became plant manager in Le
Puy-en-Velay, France. In 1984 he was named head of research
and development for the company's industrial tire division.
In 1985, when Ghosn was 30 years old, he was appointed Chief Operating
Officer (COO) of Michelin’s South American operations. He
returned to Rio de Janeiro, reporting directly to François Michelin,
who tasked Ghosn with turning around the operation, which was
unprofitable and struggling under Brazil's hyperinflation.
Ghosn formed cross-functional management teams to determine best
practices among the French, Brazilian, and other nationalities working
in the South American division. The multicultural experience in
Brazil formed the basis of his cross-cultural management style and
emphasis on diversity as a core business asset. "You learn
from diversity ... but you're comforted by commonality", Ghosn has
said. The division returned to profitability in two
After turning around Michelin's South American operations, Ghosn was
appointed President and COO of
Michelin North America in 1989, and
Greenville, South Carolina
Greenville, South Carolina with his family. He was
promoted to CEO of
Michelin North America in 1990. He presided
over the restructuring of the company after its acquisition of the
Uniroyal Goodrich Tire Company.
In 1996, the ailing French auto manufacturer
Renault recruited Ghosn
as Executive Vice President in charge of purchasing, advanced
research, engineering and development, powertrain operations, and
manufacturing; and he was also in charge of Renault’s South American
division, located in the Mercosur. Ghosn's radical
Renault successfully returned the company to
profitability in 1997.
Nissan and the Renault-
In March 1999,
Nissan formed the Renault-
and in May 1999
Renault purchased a 36.8% stake in Nissan. While
maintaining his roles at Renault, Ghosn joined
Nissan as its Chief
Operating Officer (COO) in June 1999, became its President in June
2000, and was named Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in June 2001.
When he joined the company,
Nissan had a consolidated interest-bearing
net automotive debt of more than $20 billion (more than 2 trillion
yen), and only three of its 46 models sold in Japan were
generating a profit. Reversing the company's sinking fortunes was
considered nearly impossible.
Nissan Revival Plan", announced in October 1999, called for a
return to profitability in fiscal year 2000, a profit margin in excess
of 4.5% of sales by the end of fiscal year 2002, and a 50% reduction
in the current level of debt by the end of fiscal year
2002. Ghosn promised to resign if these goals were not
Nissan Revival Plan called for cutting 21,000 Nissan
jobs (14% of total workforce), mostly in Japan; shutting five Japanese
plants; reducing the number of suppliers and shareholdings; and
auctioning off prized assets such as Nissan's aerospace
Ghosn was the fourth non-Japanese person to lead a Japanese automaker,
after Mark Fields, Henry Wallace, and James Miller were appointed by
Ford to run
Mazda in the late 1990s. In addition to cutting jobs,
plants, and suppliers, Ghosn spearheaded major and dramatic structural
and corporate-culture changes at Nissan. He defied Japanese business
etiquette in various ways, including by eliminating seniority-based
and age-based promotion, by changing lifetime employment from a
guarantee to a desired goal for when the company achieved high
performance, and by dismantling Nissan's keiretsu system – an
interwoven web of parts suppliers with cross-holdings in
Nissan. When the
Nissan Revival Plan was announced, the
proposed dismantling of keiretsu earned Ghosn the nickname "keiretsu
killer", and the
Wall Street Journal
Wall Street Journal quoted a Dresdner Kleinwort
Benson analyst in Tokyo as saying Ghosn might become a "target of
public outrage" if
Nissan threw former affiliates out of its supply
chain. Ghosn changed Nissan's official company language from
Japanese to English, and included executives from Europe and North
America in key global strategy sessions for the first time.
In the first year of the
Nissan Revival Plan, Nissan's consolidated
net profit after tax climbed to $2.7 billion for fiscal year 2000,
from a consolidated net loss of $6.46 billion in the previous
year. Twelve months into his three-year turnaround plan, Nissan
had returned to profitability, and within three years it was one of
the industry's most profitable auto makers, with operating margins
consistently above 9%—more than twice the industry average. The
goals of the
Nissan Revival Plan were all reached before March 31,
In May 2002 Ghosn announced his next set of goals for the company,
Nissan 180", a three-year plan for growth based on the numbers 1, 8,
and 0: By the end of September 2005
Nissan planned to increase its
global sales by one million vehicles; and by the spring of 2005 it was
committed to achieving an operating margin of at least 8% and reducing
its net automotive debt to zero. These goals were all
reached: In the spring of 2003
Nissan announced that its net
automotive debt was eliminated in fiscal year 2002. Nissan's
operating profit margin climbed to 11.1% in fiscal year 2003; it
had been 1.4% in fiscal year 1999. In October 2005 Nissan
announced that its annual sales from September 30, 2004 to September
30, 2005 were more than 3.67 million, up from the 2.6 million vehicles
sold in the fiscal year ended March 2002.
Datsun Go launch in New Delhi, India (2013)
In May 2005, Ghosn was named President and Chief Executive Officer of
Renault. When he assumed the CEO roles at both
Renault and Nissan,
Ghosn became the world's first person to run two companies on the
Fortune Global 500 simultaneously.
In 2005, billionaire investor
Kirk Kerkorian acquired a 9.9% stake in
General Motors (GM) and seated one of his representatives on the
company's board, then urged GM to investigate a merger with Renault
Nissan with Ghosn as the new Chairman of GM. In 2006, GM's
embattled management rebuffed the takeover attempt, and by the end of
the year, Kerkorian's Tracinda Corp. sold most of its GM stock.
Ford Motor Co. made Ghosn a formal offer to lead the company,
according to the book American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to
Ford Motor Company by Bryce Hoffman. Ghosn refused,
reportedly saying the only way he would come to the struggling company
was if he was named both the CEO and Chairman of the board. Bill Ford
Jr. refused to give up his chairmanship.
Carlos Ghosn at Nissan’s Honmoku Wharf, a logistics hub about 10 km
southeast of Nissan’s global headquarters in Yokohama, July 2011.
In 2007, Ghosn led the Renault-
Nissan Alliance into the mass-market
zero-emission electric car market in a major way, and committed €4
billion (more than $5 billion) to the effort. In 2008
he confirmed that Nissan-
Renault would bring an "entire lineup" of
zero-emission electric cars to the worldwide market by 2012.
In 2009, he told the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of
Business, "If you're going to let developing countries have as many
cars as they want—and they're going to have as many cars as they
want one way or another—there is no absolutely alternative but to go
for zero emissions. And the only zero-emissions vehicle available
today is electric.... So we decided to go for it." The Nissan
Leaf, an electric car billed as "the world's first affordable
zero-emission car", debuted in December 2010. As of
2017, the Renault-
Nissan Alliance is the world's electric vehicle
leader, selling more than double the number of electric cars as Tesla,
Nissan Leaf is the world's best-selling electric vehicle by a
In 2008, Ghosn was named Chairman, President, and CEO of Nissan.
In 2009 he was named Chairman and CEO of Renault.
Ghosn was a visible leader in recovery efforts after the Japanese
earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, one of the worst natural
disasters in modern history. On March 29, 2011, he made the first
of several visits to the hard-hit Iwaki engine plant in Fukushima
prefecture, 50 km (31 miles) from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear
power plant, and at his direction
Nissan restored full
operations at the Iwaki factory well ahead of
expectations. He appeared on television in Japan to
encourage optimism. In May 2011 Ghosn remained
committed to building at least 1 million of Nissan's cars and trucks
in Japan annually.
In June 2012, Ghosn was named Deputy Chairman of the Board of
Directors of Russian automobile manufacturer AvtoVAZ. In June
2013 he was appointed Chairman of the Russian company, a position he
retained through June 2016.
Renault had begun a
strategic partnership with
AvtoVAZ in 2008 by acquiring a 25% stake in
the company; this led to increasingly deeper partnerships between
Nissan and AvtoVAZ, ending in Renault-
control of the Russian automaker in 2014.
In February 2017 Ghosn announced he would step down as CEO of Nissan
on April 1, 2017, while remaining chairman of the company.
Hiroto Saikawa, who had been at
Nissan 40 years and was co-chief
executive of the company, became its CEO.
In October 2016,
Nissan completed the acquisition of a controlling 34%
stake in Mitsubishi Motors. Ghosn became, in addition to his
Nissan posts, Chairman of Mitsubishi, with an aim to
rehabilitate the automaker after a months-long scandal involving
fuel-economy misrepresentation and consequent falling revenues. The
Nissan-Mitsubishi partnership includes partnership in developing
electric automobiles for Mitsubishi, and the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi
alliance creates the world’s fourth-largest auto group, after
Toyota, Volkswagen AG, and
General Motors Co.
Ghosn served on the International Advisory Board of Brazilian bank
Banco Itaú until 2015. He is also a member of the Advisory
Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management in
Beijing. He has received an honorary doctorate from American
University of Beirut; and he is a member of the Strategic
Saint Joseph University
Saint Joseph University of Beirut. In 2014 and 2015, he
was elected president of the European Automobile Manufacturers
Association. He serves as Governor of the World
Forbes magazine called "the hardest-working man in the
brutally competitive global car business", splits his time between
Paris and Tokyo and as of 2006 logged roughly 150,000 miles in
airplanes per year. Japanese media have called him "Seven-Eleven"
("work very hard from early in the morning till late at night").
He holds both Brazilian and French citizenships. He has been
noted for his direct, no-nonsense, results-oriented and
execution-oriented style in business strategy meetings, but also
for his interest in resolving problems from within a company by
listening to workers and by cross-functional and cross-cultural team
Ghosn is multilingual and speaks four languages fluently: French,
Portuguese, English, and Arabic, and he has also studied
Japanese. He also maintains ties to Lebanon, where he lived
for 10 years and where he completed his primary and secondary
education. He is a partner in Ixsir, a winery in the northern coastal
town of Batroun, Lebanon. In 2012 he was named to the Honorary
Board of the American Foundation of
Saint George Hospital
Saint George Hospital in
Ghosn has been hailed as a potential presidential candidate in
Lebanon. In a June 2011 survey by life-insurance company
AXA, Ghosn was ranked No. 7 in a random poll asking Japanese people,
"Which celebrity do you want to run Japan?" (Barack Obama was No. 9,
and Prime Minister
Naoto Kan was No. 19.) He has
so far declined such overtures, saying he has "no political
Ghosn is the divorced father of four grown children. He has
residences in France, Japan, and Brazil.
In the media
Beginning in November 2001, Ghosn's life story was turned into a
superhero comic book series in Japan, titled The True Story of Carlos
Ghosn, in the manga comic book Big Comic Superior. The series was
published as a book in 2002.
Ghosn also has a Japanese bento box named after him on the menus at
some Tokyo restaurants. Bento boxes are popular with businessmen,
students, and others who want a quick lunch. The Financial Times
called the "
Carlos Ghosn Bento" a "measure of the extraordinary rise
of Mr. Ghosn in Japan that he should be deemed worthy enough to eat.
The Japanese take their food seriously and do not welcome foreign
intrusions. As such, the 'Ghosn bento' could be seen as a Japanese way
of bestowing acceptance upon him."
Ghosn is the subject of a number of books in English, Japanese, and
French. In English, he wrote a best-selling business book called
Shift: Inside Nissan's Historic Revival. He was the subject of
another business book called Turnaround: How
Carlos Ghosn Rescued
Nissan by David Magee. He also provided strategic business
commentary and on-the-job lessons to aspiring managers in a book
called The Ghosn Factor: 24 Inspiring Lessons From Carlos Ghosn, the
Most Successful Transnational CEO by Miguel Rivas-Micoud.
Ghosn's quest to develop Nissan's line of zero-emission electric cars
is one of the four subjects of the 2011 documentary Revenge of the
Electric Car. The zero-emission
Nissan Leaf, which
delivering in late 2010 in the
United States and Japan, is the world's
first mass-produced zero-emission electric vehicle. Ghosn
authorized more than $5 billion to bring the Leaf, and numerous
derivative electric cars based on the Leaf's architecture, to
market—a gamble that prompted
BusinessWeek to ask whether he was
Ghosn is a frequent subject of university thesis papers and essays
among business students. CyberEssays has a section dedicated to papers
about Ghosn's corporate leadership. One of the more commonly
cited thesis papers is the June 2005
MBA thesis written by Koji Nakae
of the MIT Sloan School of Management, which compares Ghosn to U.S.
General Douglas MacArthur, who restructured Japanese society after
World War II.
Awards and recognition
As a result of his achievements, Ghosn has had numerous awards and
honors bestowed upon him. Some of these include:
In 2002, he was appointed a
Chevalier of the Legion of Honour
Chevalier of the Legion of Honour (Knight
of the Legion of Honour) by the French government.
In 2002 Fortune awarded him Asia Businessman of the Year.
In 2003, he was named Man of the Year by Fortune magazine's Asian
In 2003 Fortune listed him as one of the 10 most powerful business
leaders outside the U.S.
In 2004, he was added to the Automotive Hall of Fame.
In 2004, he was also added to the Japan Automotive Hall of Fame.
In October 2006, Ghosn was made an Honorary Knight Commander of the
Order of the British Empire.
In 2010, CEO Quarterly magazine listed Ghosn as one of the "Most
In November 2011,
CNBC listed Ghosn as Asia Business Leader of the
In June 2012, Ghosn received the Japan Society Award.
In October 2012, Ghosn became the first person in the auto industry,
and the fourth overall, to win a Lifetime Achievement Award from the
Strategic Management Society, a non-profit group that promotes ethical
and strategic business stewardship.
In October 2012, Ghosn was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of
Isabella the Catholic, an honorific designation to civilians in
recognition of services that benefit Spain.
In 2013, he was appointed an International
Fellow of the Royal Academy
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