Nissan picks Sakamoto as board candidate after Seki’s resignation

By Kevin Buckland

TOKYO (Reuters) – Nissan Motor Co <7201.T> has selected executive officer Hideyuki Sakamoto as a candidate for the board of directors, the company said on Friday, following the surprise resignation of vice-chief operating officer Jun Seki earlier this week.

Sakamoto, who was named an executive officer in June and has been an executive vice president since 2014, is responsible for manufacturing and supply chain management at Japan’s No. 2 automaker. Nissan will hold an extraordinary shareholder meeting on Feb. 18, where his appointment will be among proposals submitted for approval, it said in a press release.

The carmaker did not say whether Sakamoto would take on Seki’s responsibilities.

Nissan needs stability as it braces for its worst annual profit in 11 years amid slumping sales in the United States and China, its biggest markets. The company is also working to repair ties with top shareholder and alliance partner Renault SA <RENA.PA>, which deteriorated following the ouster of joint chairman Carlos Ghosn a year ago.

The abrupt departure of Seki, part of Nissan’s newly appointed three-person leadership team and the executive charged with leading the recovery plan, sent the carmaker’s shares to an eight-year low on Wednesday. He will join motor-maker Nidec Corp <6594.T> as president.

Seki, Chief Executive Makoto Uchida and Chief Operating Officer Ashwani Gupta officially took over on Dec. 1, but sources say they failed to immediately gel. Renault is due to name a new CEO in the coming weeks as well.

Nissan’s top ranks have seen upheaval several times in the 13 months since Ghosn’s arrest on charges of financial misconduct, which he denies. Hiroto Saikawa resigned as CEO in September after he admitted to being improperly overpaid.

Nissan embarked on its wide-ranging restructuring plan in April, attempting to draw a line under the costly expansion pursued by Ghosn. It plans to ax nearly one-tenth of its workforce and cut global vehicle production by 10% through 2023.

Nissan, Renault and third partner Mitsubishi Motors Corp need to leverage their alliance as automakers globally ramp up spending on new technologies like electrification and autonomous driving.

Renault in October ousted CEO Thierry Bollore, who was close to Ghosn and had strained ties with former Nissan counterpart Saikawa. New Nissan chief Uchida is known for having close ties to the French automaker.

The three companies earlier this month named Hadi Zablit to the newly created position of general secretary of the automaking alliance, charging him with boosting efficiencies and maximizing profit benefits for the partners.

(Reporting by Kevin Buckland; Editing by Louise Heavens and Mark Potter)


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