Renault CEO denounces ‘coup’ against him

PARIS — Thierry Bollore, Renault’s embattled CEO, said the news that the automaker’s chairman, Jean-Dominique Senard, was pushing for his removal was “totally unexpected” and “stupefying.”

Bollore told the French business newspaper Les Echos that he only learned at 4 a.m. on Wednesday, after returning to Paris on a flight from Tokyo, that Senard wanted him to leave his post at Renault, which he has held since January.

“There was not a cigarette paper’s worth of difference between us,” Bollore told Les Echos. “I have always been loyal to him.”

Renault’s board of directors will meet Friday to discuss Bollore’s fate. French television station BFM said Renault CFO Clotilde Delbos could be named as the automaker’s interim CEO to replace Bollore.

Bollore, who as COO of Renault was Carlos Ghosn’s heir apparent, was appointed CEO two months after Ghosn’s arrest in November 2018 on accusations that he had conspired to hide millions in income at Renault’s alliance partner Nissan.

Bollore said that the only strike against him was that he was nominated by Ghosn, though he noted that his appointment as COO was unanimously approved by the board.

Reports by unnamed sources this week have criticized Bollore for a decline in Renault’s financial performance, and said that he did not have Senard’s full trust.

Bollore defended his performance, saying that Renault was one of the few automakers not to have lowered its profit forecasts, and was in good shape to weather the transition to electrification and meet its E.U. emission targets without paying fines.

“Renault’s management has proven that it knows how to navigate violent storms,” Bollore said. “Operationally, I do not see where the fault is.”

Bollore appealed to the French government, which holds a 15 percent stake in Renault — and which has given Senard free rein to make governance decisions — not to “destabilize” Renault by changing top management.

“What is at stake is not my personal future,” he said, “but the future of Renault and its 186,000 employees.”