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 and École des Mines de Paris
Occupation CEO of Renault and Nissan
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 and holds the same positions at Japan-based Nissan, which together produce more than one in 10 cars sold worldwide.[citation needed] Ghosn is also Chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, the strategic partnership overseeing the two companies through a unique cross-shareholding agreement.

For orchestrating one of the decade's most aggressive downsizing campaigns and spearheading the turnaround of Nissan from near bankruptcy in the late 1990s, Ghosn earned the nicknames "le cost killer" and "Mr. Fix It."[3] After the Nissan financial turnaround, he achieved celebrity status.[4] His life has been chronicled in a Japanese manga comic book.[5] Called "the ultimate rock star of the industry," he has been asked to run at least two other automakers, General Motors and Ford Motor Co.[6] His decision to spend €4 billion[7] so Renault and Nissan could jointly develop the world's first lineup of electric cars, starting with the Nissan Leaf, is a subject of the 2011 documentary Revenge of the Electric Car.[8]

Origins and personal life[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.[9] Bichara Ghosn entered the rubber industry and eventually headed a company that bought and sold agricultural products. His son Jorge Ghosn settled in the regional capital of Porto Velho and married a Nigerian-born woman whose family also came from Lebanon.

Carlos Ghosn answers reporters' questions at the Nissan factory in Kyushu, Japan. (2011)

Carlos Ghosn was born on 9 March 1954. When he was about one year old, he became sick after drinking unsanitary water, and the family moved to Rio de Janeiro.[10] In 1960, when Ghosn was six years old, he moved with his three siblings and mother to Beirut, Lebanon. He completed his secondary school studies in Lebanon, at the Jesuit school Collège Notre-Dame de Jamhour. Then he completed his classes préparatoires at the Lycée Stanislas in Paris.[11] He graduated with engineering degrees from the École Polytechnique and École des Mines de Paris.

After graduation, Ghosn spent 18 years at Michelin, Europe's largest tire maker. He worked in several plants in France and in 1985, when Ghosn was 30 years old, he was appointed chief operating officer of Michelin’s $300 million[citation needed] 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.[12] Ghosn formed cross-functional management teams to determine best practices among the French, Brazilian, and other nationalities working in the South American division.[13] The experience in multicultural Brazil formed the basis of his cross-cultural management style and emphasis on diversity as a core business asset.[14] ("You learn from diversity... but you're comforted by commonality," Ghosn said.[15]) The division returned to profitability in two years.[16] After turning around Michelin's South American operations, Ghosn took his family to Greenville, South Carolina,[17] where he became CEO of Michelin’s North American operations.

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

Ghosn has attracted controversy for his demanding and sometimes confrontational style.[18] His strategy for penetrating emerging markets includes commercializing affordable zero-emission vehicles: "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," he told the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business.[19]

Ghosn, whom Forbes magazine called "the hardest-working man in the brutally competitive global car business,"[18] splits his time between Paris and Tokyo and logs roughly 150,000 miles in airplanes per year.[18] Japanese media also call him “Seven-Eleven” (“work very hard from early in the morning till late at night”).[20] Ghosn holds both Brazilian and French citizenships.[21] Ghosn is multilingual and speaks at least five languages fluently: French, Portuguese, English and Arabic, and he has studied Japanese.[22][23] He also maintains substantial ties to Lebanon, where he lived for 10 years and where he completed his primary and secondary education. He is a passive investor in Ixsir, an environmentally friendly vineyard and wine exporter in the northern coastal town of Batroun, Lebanon.[24]

Ghosn is often hailed as a potential presidential candidate in Lebanon.[25] In a June 2011 survey by insurance company AXA, Ghosn was ranked seventh in a random poll asking Japanese people, "Which celebrity do you want to run Japan?" (Barack Obama was No. 9, and Naoto Kan was No. 19.)[26] He has so far declined such overtures, saying he has "no political ambitions".[27]


In 1981, Ghosn joined French automotive supplier Michelin as a plant manager in Le Puy, France. In 1984 he was named head of research and development for the company's industrial tire division. One year later, he became chief operating officer of Michelin's South American operations, based in Brazil. In 1990, he was named chairman and chief executive officer of Michelin North America, where he presided over the restructuring of the company after its acquisition of the Uniroyal Goodrich Tire Company. He held those positions until 1996, when Renault hired him as executive vice president responsible for advanced research, car engineering and development, car manufacturing, powertrain operations, purchasing and supervision of Renault activities in South America.[28]

Carlos Ghosn at Nissan’s Honmoku Wharf, a logistics hub about 10 km southeast of Nissan’s global headquarters in Yokohama, July 16, 2011.

In 1999, Renault purchased a 36.8 percent stake in Nissan.[29] While maintaining his roles at Renault, Ghosn joined Nissan as its chief operating officer in June 1999, became its president in June 2000 and was named chief executive officer in June 2001. When he joined the company, Nissan had debt of $20 billion and only three of its 48 models were generating a profit[citation needed]—and reversing the company's sinking fortunes was considered "mission impossible.".[30] Ghosn promised to resign if the company did not reach profitability by the end of the year, and claimed that Nissan would have no net debt by 2005. He defied Japanese business etiquette, cut 21,000 Nissan jobs (or 14 percent of total workforce), shut the first of five domestic plants, and auctioned off prized assets such as Nissan's aerospace unit. His radical methods would make him a “target of public outrage,” according to the Wall Street Journal.[20] However, in one year, Nissan's net profit climbed to $2.7 billion from a loss of $6.1 billion in the previous year. Twelve months into his three-year turnaround plan, Ghosn had Nissan back in the black, 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.[31] Nissan's operating profit (EBIT, or earnings before interest and taxes) margin increased from 1.38% in FY 2000 to 9.25% in FY 2006.[32]

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[33]—spearheaded major structural changes at Nissan, dramatically altering the corporate culture. Most notably, he ended Nissan's reliance on an interwoven web of parts suppliers with cross-holdings in Nissan—a Japanese operating model called "keiretsu."[34] The dismantling of Keiretsu earned Ghosn the nickname "Keiretsu killer."[35] 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.[36] For the forcefulness of his initiatives to change the culture at Nissan, Ghosn has been compared with General Douglas MacArthur (the chief of staff of the US Army who radically changed Japan's political and economic structure during the post-World War II occupation).[20]

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.[37][38]

In 2005, billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian acquired a 9.9 percent stake in General Motors 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.[39]

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.[40] 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.[41]

He was one of the most visible leaders in recovery efforts after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, one of the worst natural disasters in modern history.[42] Ghosn 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.[43] He appeared on TV Tokyo to encourage rebuilding.[44] In spite of late-2010 speculation that Toyota might shift production away from Japan,[45] in May 2011 Ghosn remained committed to building at least 1 million of Nissan's cars and trucks in Japan annually.[46]

On 28 June 2012, Ghosn was named Deputy Chairman of the Board of Directors of OAO AvtoVAZ [47] and on 29 June 2013 he was appointed Chairman.[1] He also serves on the board of directors for Brazilian bank Banco Itaú.[48] He is also a member of International Advisory Council of Tsinghua University of Beijing.[49] He has received an honorary doctorate from American University of Beirut;[50] and he is a member of the Strategic Council, Saint Joseph University of Beirut.[51]

UK adopting the Euro[edit]

Carlos Ghosn is high profile supporter of the UK joining the Eurozone.[52]


In 2012, Carlos Ghosn earned €2,728,358 for his responsibilities within Renault.[53]

Popular Culture[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!!).[54][55] It was first serialized in the 2002-01-18 issue of Big Comic Superior.[56] 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.[57] 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."[58]

Ghosn wrote a best-selling business book called "Shift: Inside Nissan's Historic Revival."[59] He was the subject of another business book called "Turnaround: How Carlos Ghosn Rescued Nissan" by David Magee.[60] 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.[61]

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.[62] 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."[63] The twin-turbo V-6 GT-R, which debuted in 2008,[64] is a $70,000 four-seater sports car. The most affordable "supercar" worldwide has also been dubbed "Ghosn's dream car"[65] 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.[66] 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 US General Douglas MacArthur in restructuring Japanese society after World War II.[20]

Awards and recognition[edit]

In 2003, Ghosn was voted Man of the Year by Fortune magazine's Asian edition.[67]

In 2003 Fortune listed him as one of the 10 most powerful business leaders outside the U.S.[68]

In 2004, he was added to the Automotive Hall of Fame.[69]

In 2004, he was also added to the Japan Automotive Hall of Fame.[70]

In October 2006, Ghosn was created an Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire. 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"[71]

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

In November 2011, CNBC listed Ghosn as Asia Business Leader of the Year.[72]

In May 2012, Japan Society listed Ghosn as Japan Society Annual Award winner.[73]

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.[74]

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.[75]

In November 2012, Ghosn became the honorary head of the American Foundation of Saint-George Hospital in Beirut.[76]


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