Carlos Ghosn

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Carlos Ghosn
Carlos Ghosn - India Economic Summit 2009.jpg
Ghosn at the World Economic Forum India Economic Summit in 2009
Born (1954-03-09) March 9, 1954 (age 60)
Porto Velho, Brazil
Alma mater École Polytechnique (1974) École des Mines (1978)
Occupation CEO of Renault and Nissan
CEO Renault-Nissan Alliance
Chairman of AvtoVAZ[1]

Carlos Ghosn, KBE (Arabic: كارلوس غصن‎, born 9 March 1954) is a French-Lebanese-Brazilian[2] businessman born in Porto Velho, Brazil, who is currently the Chairman and CEO of Paris-based Renault, holds the same positions at Japan-based Nissan, and is Chairman of Russian automobile manufacturer AvtoVAZ.[3] Ghosn is also Chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, the strategic partnership overseeing the Nissan and Renault through a unique cross-shareholding agreement. The Alliance, which includes AvtoVAZ, has held approximately 10% of the global market share from 2010 through to 2014, and as of 2014 is one of the top four automobile groups worldwide.[4][5][6][7]

After his radical restructuring of Renault that returned that company to profitability in the late 1990s Ghosn became known as "Le Cost Killer";[8] and in the early 2000s, for orchestrating one of the auto industry's most aggressive downsizing campaigns and spearheading the turnaround of Nissan from its near bankruptcy in 1999, he earned the nickname "Mr. Fix It".[9] After the Nissan financial turnaround, surveys published by the Financial Times and PricewaterhouseCoopers named him one of the top four most-respected business leaders for each of the three years 2003,[10] 2004,[11] and 2005,[12] and in 2003 Fortune named him one of the 10 most powerful people in business outside the U.S.[13] He quickly achieved celebrity status in Japan,[14][15] and his life has been chronicled in a Japanese manga comic book.[16] Ghosn has been asked to run at least two other automakers, General Motors and Ford.[17] His decision to spend €4 billion ($5.83 billion)[18] so Renault and Nissan could jointly develop the Nissan Leaf, an electric car billed as "the world's first affordable zero-emission car",[19][20] is one of the four subjects of the 2011 documentary Revenge of the Electric Car.[21]

Early life and education[edit]

Ghosn's grandfather Bichara Ghosn emigrated from Lebanon to Brazil at the age of 13, eventually settling in remote Guaporé, Rondônia, near the border between Brazil and Bolivia.[22] 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.[23] His son Jorge Ghosn married a Nigerian-born woman whose family also came from Lebanon,[24] and they settled in the Rondônian capital of Porto Velho.[25]

Carlos Ghosn was born on 9 March 1954.[26] When he was about two years old he became sick after drinking unsanitary water, and his mother moved with him to Rio de Janeiro.[25] 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 grandmother lived.[25] He 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.[27] He graduated with university engineering degrees from the École Polytechnique in 1974 and the École des Mines de Paris in 1978.[26][28][29]


From Michelin to Renault[edit]

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, training and working in several plants in France and Germany.[26][30] In 1981, he became plant manager in Le Puy-en-Velay, France.[26][31] In 1984 he was named head of research and development for the company's industrial tire division.[26][32]

In 1985, when Ghosn was 30 years old, he was appointed chief operating officer of Michelin’s $300 million[citation needed] South American operations.[26][33] 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.[33][34] Ghosn formed cross-functional management teams to determine best practices among the French, Brazilian, and other nationalities working in the South American division.[35] The experience in multicultural Brazil formed the basis of his cross-cultural management style and emphasis on diversity as a core business asset.[35][36] "You learn from diversity ... but you're comforted by commonality", Ghosn has said.[37] The division returned to profitability in two years.[35][38][39] After turning around Michelin's South American operations, Ghosn was appointed President and COO of Michelin North America in 1989, and moved to Greenville, South Carolina with his family.[40] He was promoted to CEO of Michelin North America in 1990.[35][40] He presided over the restructuring of the company after its acquisition of the Uniroyal Goodrich Tire Company.[26][41]

In 1996, the ailing French auto manufacturer Renault recruited Ghosn as executive vice president in charge of purchasing, research, engineering and development, and manufacturing, and also in charge of Renault’s South American division in Brazil.[42] Ghosn's radical restructuring of Renault succesfully returned the company to profitability.[8]

Nissan and the Renault-Nissan Alliance[edit]

In March 1999, Renault and Nissan formed the Renault-Nissan Alliance, and in May 1999 Renault purchased a 36.8% stake in Nissan.[43] 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.[26] When he joined the company, Nissan had debt of $20 billion (2.1 trillion yen),[citation needed] and only three of its 46 models sold in Japan were generating a profit.[44] Reversing the company's sinking fortunes was considered nearly impossible.[45][46][47][48]

Ghosn's "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.[49][50][51] Ghosn promised to resign if these goals were not met,[52] and claimed that Nissan would have no net debt by 2005.[citation needed] Ghosn's Nissan Revival Plan called for cutting 21,000 Nissan jobs worldwide (14% of total workforce), shutting five domestic plants, reducing the number of suppliers and shareholdings, and auctioning off prized assets such as Nissan's aerospace unit.[citation needed][49] He defied Japanese business etiquette by eliminating lifetime employment and seniority-based promotion, and by dismantling Nissan's keiretsu system – an interwoven web of parts suppliers with cross-holdings in Nissan.[citation needed] When the Nissan Revival Plan was unveiled, an analyst at the Wall Street Journal wrote that Ghosn might become a “target of public outrage”.[53]

However, in one year, Nissan's consolidated net profit after tax climbed to $2.7 billion for fiscal year 2000,[54] from a consolidated net loss of $6.46 billion in the previous year.[55] 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.[56] Nissan's operating profit margin increased from 1.4% in fiscal year 1999[57] to 11.1% in fiscal year 2003.[58]

Ghosn at Datsun Go launch in New Delhi, India (2013)

Ghosn, who was the third non-Japanese person to lead a Japanese automaker after Henry Wallace and Mark Fields, who were appointed by Ford to run Mazda[citation needed]—spearheaded major structural changes at Nissan, dramatically altering the corporate culture, most notably, ending Nissan's reliance on keiretsu.[59] The dismantling of keiretsu earned Ghosn the nickname "Keiretsu killer".[60] He changed the official company language from Japanese to English, and included executives from Europe and North America in key global strategy sessions for the first time.[61][62]

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.[63]

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 and 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.[64]

In 2006, Ford Motor Co. made Ghosn a formal offer to lead the company, according to the book American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company by Bryce Hoffman.[65] Ghosn refused, reportedly saying the only way he would come to the struggling Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford was if he was named both the CEO and chairman of the board. Bill Ford Jr. refused to give up his chairmanship.[66]

Carlos Ghosn at Nissan’s Honmoku Wharf, a logistics hub about 10 km southeast of Nissan’s global headquarters in Yokohama, July 2011.

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.[67] He was one of the first business executives to travel into Japan's radiation zone, and at his direction Nissan restored operations at its hard-hit Iwaki engine plant weeks ahead of expectations.[68] He appeared on television in Japan to encourage rebuilding.[69][70][71][72] In May 2011 Ghosn remained committed to building at least 1 million of Nissan's cars and trucks in Japan annually.[73]

In June 2012, Ghosn was named Deputy Chairman of the Board of Directors of Russian automobile manufacturer AvtoVAZ.[74] In June 2013 he was appointed Chairman.[1][75][3]


Ghosn serves on the International Advisory Board of Brazilian bank Banco Itaú.[76] He is also a member of the Advisory Board of Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management in Beijing.[77] He has received an honorary doctorate from American University of Beirut;[78] and he is a member of the Strategic Council, Saint Joseph University of Beirut.[79]


Ghosn has attracted controversy for his demanding and sometimes confrontational style.[citation needed] Regarding his push for electric vehicles, he told the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business in 2009, "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."[80]

Ghosn, whom Forbes magazine called "the hardest-working man in the brutally competitive global car business,"[35] splits his time between Paris and Tokyo and logs roughly 150,000 miles in airplanes per year.[35] Japanese media also call him “Seven-Eleven” (“work very hard from early in the morning till late at night”).[53] He holds both Brazilian and French citizenships.[81] Ghosn is multilingual and speaks four languages fluently: French, Portuguese, English and Arabic, and he has studied Japanese.[82][83] He also maintains substantial ties to Lebanon, where he lived for 10 years and where he completed his primary and secondary education.[citation needed] He is a partner in Ixsir, a winery in the northern coastal town of Batroun, Lebanon.[84]

Ghosn has been hailed as a potential presidential candidate in Lebanon.[85][citation needed] 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.)[86][87][88][89] He has so far declined such overtures, saying he has "no political ambitions".[85]

In the media[edit]

Ghosn stars in the 2011 documentary Revenge of the Electric Car which follows four men in their quest to build electric cars.

Ghosn's life story was turned into a superhero comic book series in Japan, titled The True Story of Carlos Ghosn (カルロス・ゴーン物語―企業再生の答がここにある!!).[90][91] It was first serialized in the 2002-01-18 issue of Big Comic Superior.[92] The 7-chapter stories were later published as a separate book in 2002-04 by Shogakukan. The book was written by Yoko Togashi, and illustrated by Takanobu Toda.

Ghosn also has Japanese "bento box" named after him on the menus at some Tokyo restaurants.[93] 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."[94]

Ghosn wrote a best-selling business book called Shift: Inside Nissan's Historic Revival.[95] He was the subject of another business book called Turnaround: How Carlos Ghosn Rescued Nissan by David Magee.[96] 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.[97]

Because of his appearances at auto shows and in the media, Ghosn has become closely identified with two car models in particular—the Nissan Leaf and the Nissan GT-R. The zero-emission Leaf, which Nissan began delivering in late 2010 in the United States and Japan, is the world's first mass-produced electric vehicle.[98] 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 Business Week to ask whether he was "crazy."[99] The twin-turbo V-6 GT-R, which debuted in 2008,[100] is a $70,000 four-seater sports car. The most affordable "supercar" worldwide has also been dubbed "Ghosn's dream car"[101] because he was considered the biggest champion of the GT-R's development inside of Nissan.

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.[102] One of the more commonly cited thesis papers was written by Koji Nakae of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, whose June 2005 master's thesis compared Ghosn to U.S. General Douglas MacArthur in restructuring Japanese society after World War II.[53]

Awards and recognition[edit]

In 2003, Ghosn was voted Man of the Year by Fortune magazine's Asian edition.[103]

In 2003 Fortune listed him as one of the 10 most powerful business leaders outside the U.S.[13]

In 2004, he was added to the Automotive Hall of Fame.[104]

In 2004, he was also added to the Japan Automotive Hall of Fame.[105]

In October 2006, Ghosn was created an Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.[citation needed] He may use the postnominal letters KBE, but since he is not a citizen of a Commonwealth realm he cannot use the title "Sir."

In September 2010, CEO Quarterly Magazine listed Carlos Ghosn as one of the "Most Respected CEOs"[106]

In November 2010, listed Carlos Ghosn as one of the "Seven Most Powerful South Americans".[citation needed]

In November 2011, CNBC listed Ghosn as Asia Business Leader of the Year.[107]

In June 2012, Ghosn received the Japan Society Award.[108]

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.[109]

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.[110]

In November 2012, Ghosn was named to the Honorary Board of the American Foundation of Saint George Hospital in Beirut.[111][112]



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