His hero status was so big that his life was serialised in one of Japan’s famous cartoon comic books. But now Mr Ghosn, a towering figure in the car industry, will be sacked from the Japanese firm after a board meeting on Thursday, its chief executive said.
He has been accused of “significant acts of misconduct”, including under-reporting his pay package and personal use of company assets. The boss has been arrested over claims of financial misconduct.
Mr Saikawa said he believed the misconduct “went on for a long period”.From 2010, Japanese firms have been required to disclose the salaries of executives who earn more than 100m yen.
In addition, he is chairman and chief executive of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Motors strategic alliance. Shares in Renault fell sharply after the news, dropping almost 10%.
Nissan is the world’s sixth-largest carmaker and its site in Sunderland is the UK’s biggest car plant.
“I feel despair, indignation and resentment.” said Nissan chief executive Hiroto Saikawa at a news conference.
“As the details are disclosed I believe that people will feel the same way as I feel today,” he added.
Mr Saikawa said Nissan would now try to “stabilise the situation, and normalise day-to-day operations” for staff and business partners.
He revealed they had been conducting an internal investigation for several months, prompted by a whistle-blower.
According to Japanese media reports, which have not been confirmed, he under-reported an amount totalling 5bn yen (£34m) over a five-year period from 2011.
Mr Kelly – who has also been arrested, according to the firm – was described as a close aide to Mr Ghosn. Mr Saikawa said he was able to “exert influence” in the company.
As well as being chairman of Nissan, Mr Ghosn is also chairman and chief executive of Renault and chairman of Mitsubishi Motors.
Mitsubishi said it would propose the removal of Mr Ghosn as chairman.
In France he was known as Le Cost Killer, a comment on the deep cuts he made to revive Renault.He was once tipped as a potential president of Lebanon, a move he eventually dismissed because he already had “too many jobs.
In a 2011 poll of people the Japanese would like to run their country Mr Ghosn came seventh, in front of Barack Obama (ninth).
The Brazilian-born boss of Lebanese descent and a French citizen says his background left him with a feeling of being different, which helped him adapt to new cultures.
Do you think Mr Ghosn would have made a corrupt president?